Authors: Carlson, Jane E.; Harms, Kyle E.
Publication: Biology Letters
Year: 2007
Genera: Chrysothemis

Protective floral structures may evolve in response to the negative effects of floral herbivores. For example, water calyces—liquid-filled, cup-like structures resulting from the fusion of sepals—may reduce floral herbivory by submerging buds during their development. Our observations of a water-calyx plant, Chrysothemis friedrichsthaliana (Gesneriaceae), revealed that buds were frequently attacked by ovipositing moths (Alucitidae), whose larvae consumed anthers and stigmas before corollas opened. Almost 25% of per-plant flower production was destroyed by alucitid larvae over two seasons, far exceeding the losses to all other floral herbivores combined. Experimental manipulation of water levels in calyces showed that a liquid barrier over buds halved per-flower alucitid egg deposition and subsequent herbivory, relative to buds in calyces without water. Thus, C. friedrichsthaliana’s water calyx helps protect buds from a highly detrimental floral herbivore. Our findings support claims that sepal morphology is largely influenced by selection to reduce floral herbivory, and that these pressures can result in novel morphological adaptations.