|Image Credit: Jayesh Patil|
The higher growth rate and resource-usage efficiency of these invasive plant does have a drawback though - it makes them more attractive targets to parasites. So what if a native parasite can turn the table on the invaders? What if a native parasite acquires a taste for an exotic new host?
The Chinese Dodder is a parasite with eclectic tastes, as it is capable of infecting more than 100 species of wild and cultivated plant species. To find out how well C. chinensis grows on native flora compared to their introduced counterparts, a team of researchers in China evaluated the performance of C. chinesis on 3 invasive plant species and the native equivalent from the same genus. They found that not only did C. chinensis grow much more prolifically on the introduced plants,but it also caused more damage. In fact, C chinensis is more damaging to plants that are more efficient in using their resources - the very trait which makes them so good at being invasive in the first place.
There is also another possibility - one which the researchers did not mention in the paper: Unlike the native plants which have had a long co-evolution history with the dodder and have thus evolved various means to counter the parasite's tricks blow-by-blow, the naive introduced species have never encountered C. chinesis before, which leaves them more vulnerable to attacks by the parasitic dodder. For those exotic introduced plants, it seems that the very thing which had brought them so much success in their new home may end up causing their downfall when confronted with a certain holoparasite.
Li J, Jin Z, Song W (2012) Do Native Parasitic Plants Cause More Damage to Exotic Invasive Hosts Than Native Non-Invasive Hosts? An Implication for Biocontrol. PLoS ONE 7(4): e34577. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034577
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