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Applying behavioral-ecological theory to plant defense: Light-dependent movement in Mimosa pudica suggests a trade-off between predation risk and energetic reward

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Many animal species tolerate different amounts of predation risk based on environmental conditions and the individual's own condition, often accepting greater risk when energetically stressed. We studied the sensitive plant Mimosa pudica to see whether it too accepts greater risk of predation when less light energy is available. This plant displays a defensive behavior of rapidly folding its leaves when stimulated by touch, thereby decreasing visibility to herbivores. Averting herbivory involves a trade-off because leaf closure results in a reduction in light foraging. We manipulated the light environment of individual M. pudica plants and recorded the time it took a plant to reopen its leaves following stimulation as a measure of tolerance of predation risk. As predicted by theory, avoidance behavior was sustained longer under high light conditions than under more light-limited conditions. These findings suggest this species balances the risk and reward of antiherbivore behavior in relation to current environmental conditions and that behavioral-ecological theory is a useful framework for understanding plant responses to predators.

  • Date created
    2011
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Article (Published)
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R34Q7QS3F
  • License
    © 2011 University of Chicago. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
  • Language
  • Citation for previous publication
    • Jensen, E.L., Dill, L., M., & Cahill, J. F. (2011). Applying behavioral-ecological theory to plant defense: Light-dependent movement in Mimosa pudica suggests a trade-off between predation risk and energetic reward. The American Naturalist, 177(3), 377-381. DOI: 10.1086/658343.