Evolutionary ecology of the tropane alkaloids of Datura stramonium L. (solanaceae)

Irene Shonle, Joy Bergelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although insect herbivory is frequently assumed to be responsible for the maintenance of plant secondary metabolites such as alkaloids, the assumption is controversial and experimental evidence for this assumption is sparse. We examined natural selection on the two major alkaloids present in the leaves of Datura stramonium and found that both alkaloids came under active selection. We found negative directional selection for scopolamine (natural selection acting to reduce scopolamine levels) and stabilizing selection for hyoscyamine (natural selection acting to maintain an intermediate level of hyoscyamine). We also present evidence that insect herbivores act as the agents of selection on these alkaloids. Finally, we show that there were no trade-offs in resistance to different species of insects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)778-788
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2000


  • Alkaloids
  • Datura stramonium
  • Evolutionary arms race
  • Hyoscyamine
  • Insect herbivory
  • Natural selection
  • Scopolamine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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