The Role of PMI interactions to drive rapid evolution using Medicago polymorpha as an experimental system
Interactions among plants, microbes, and insects can lead to many evolutionary adaptations and promote the spread of invasive plants. Historically, these studies of these interactions were one-dimesnional, i.e., they take a pair-wise approach where they study either plant-microbe or plant-herbivore interactions in isolation. (Biere and Tack 2013). Only recently has there been some synthesis between groups studying both areas. Early work shows that while these interactions can affect the success of plants becoming established, they are driven either directly or indirectly by a third party. Katayama and colleagues (2011) found that rhizobia caused soybeans to grow larger, which led to more, diverse herbivores. In another example, spider mites adapt to the phenotype of snap
beans when induced by mycorrhizae (Bonte et al 2010). These studies clearly show strong evidence that three-way interactions among plants, microbes and arthropods play an important role in shaping evolutionary patterns in communities (Biere and Bennett, 2013).
My current work seeks to address the roles of simultaneously interacting with beneficial microbes and insect herbivores in the evolution of invasive Medicago polymorpha genotypes in novel environments.