Overcompensation in response to mammalian herbivory: the advantage of being eaten.

K. N. Paige, T. G. Whitham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

453 Scopus citations


Plants of scarlet gilia Ipomopsis aggregata are exposed to high levels of herbivory by mule deer Odocoileus hemionus and elk Cervus elaphus early in the season, before flowering. During this period, up to 56% of all individuals experienced a 95% reduction in aboveground biomass. Browsed plants rapidly responded by producing new inflorescences and flowering within 3 wk. Unbrowsed plants produced only single inflorescences, whereas browsed plants produced multiple inflorescences. Plants with multiple inflorescences produced significantly greater numbers of flowers and fruits than unbrowsed individuals. Because there were no differences between browsed and unbrowsed individuals in the number of seeds produced per fruit, seed weight, subsequent germination success, and survival, browsed plants enjoyed a 2.4-fold increase in relative fitness. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-416
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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