Do small leaves expand faster than large leaves, and do shorter expansion times reduce herbivore damage?

A. T. Moles*, M. Westoby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Leaves are most vulnerable to herbivory during expansion. We hypothesised that one factor favouring small leaves could be that smaller-leaved species have shorter expansion times and are therefore exposed to high levels of herbivory for a shorter period than large leaves. In order to test this hypothesis, leaf expansion time and leaf area loss were measured for 51 species from Sydney, Australia. Strong positive correlations were found between leaf length and area and leaf expansion time, confirming that small leaves do expand in a shorter time than large leaves. The amount of leaf area lost was highly variable (from 0.5 to 90% of total leaf area), but was significantly related to both leaf expansion time and log leaf area. The amount of leaf area lost was not significantly correlated with specific leaf area nor with the presence of distasteful substances in the leaves, but was lower on species with hairy expanding leaves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-524
Number of pages8
JournalOikos
Volume90
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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