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News Article | February 27, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- An iconic bird whose booming mating calls once reverberated across "the Prairie State" can survive in Illinois with the help of periodic human interventions, researchers report. The greater prairie chicken once dominated the American Midwest, but today the bird is in trouble in many parts of its historic range. It is no longer found in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas or Wyoming, states where it once flourished. And in Illinois, an estimated 186 birds remain in two adjoining counties in the southern part of the state. "They used to be all over the state," said Illinois Natural History Survey conservation biologist Mark Davis, who participated in a genetic analysis of the Illinois birds. "This was the tallgrass prairie state. You couldn't throw a rock into a field without hitting a prairie chicken." The reason for the decline is simple, Davis said. "We changed our land-use practices from having a lot of prairie, then to wheat, hay and alfalfa, and now to vast expanses of corn and soybeans," he said. "Prairie chickens used to have 20 million acres of prairie in Illinois. Now, they have around 2,000. At the same time, population size went from 10 to 14 million in the 1860s to the 100 to 200 or so we have today. There just isn't enough habitat." Environmental officials have made two efforts to rescue Illinois' dwindling prairie chicken populations, which are suffering from a lack of habitat and declining genetic diversity. Between 1992 and 1998, teams imported more than 200 prairie chickens from other states. "In Illinois, the first translocation brought in birds from all over the upper Midwest - from North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Nebraska," Davis said. "And for a short period of time, it seemed to work." More chicks survived to reproductive age and genetic diversity spiked, he said. To understand how well the birds were doing long after that first translocation, Davis and his colleagues analyzed the DNA from feathers collected in the birds' courtship grounds from 2010-13. The researchers report their findings in the journal Royal Society Open Science. "What our paper reveals is that about 20 years after the translocation of new prairie chickens into Illinois, we see another decrease in genetic diversity and a decline in the number of birds," Davis said. The study confirmed that the only two remaining populations of prairie chickens in Illinois -- one in Marion County and the other in Jasper County -- are genetically isolated from one another, Davis said. The birds have access to a few hundred acres of territory overall, but the land is subdivided by roads and power lines, which represent additional barriers. "They're also surrounded by an agricultural desert of corn and soybeans," Davis said. The study identified 88 unique males using the courtship grounds, where the birds strut and boom to attract females. The team estimates that roughly the same number of females live in Illinois. The researchers' conclusion: A lack of habitat endangers prairie chickens' long-term survival in Illinois. Without periodic human intervention - in the form of translocations of birds from other states - the population could die out. "This is the issue that sage grouse are facing out West," Davis said. "This is the issue that lesser prairie chickens are facing in Texas and Oklahoma. These are big birds that need a big landscape that we don't have anymore." There are still strongholds for prairie chickens in Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota, Davis said. In western Minnesota, for example, a tradition of protection for game animals and a hefty excise tax on hunting and fishing licenses has allowed the state to purchase lands and protect a patchwork of interconnected grassland habitat, he said. "Now you have this swath of restored prairie and the birds are doing really well -- so much so that a few years ago, on a very limited basis, Minnesota was able to have the first prairie chickens taken by hunting in many years," he said. But Illinois has strong agricultural traditions, and Davis doesn't foresee a similar effort in the state. "Providing food for the world does come at a cost, and that cost is habitat for wildlife," he said. "To sustain prairie chickens in Illinois, we have two options," Davis said. "We can purchase and restore as much prairie habitat as possible. In lieu of that, we need to support the periodic translocations of new birds to Illinois to preserve this prairie icon." The INHS is a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the U. of I. To reach Mark Davis, call 217-333-6294; email davis63@illinois.edu. The paper "Genetic rescue, the greater prairie chicken, and the problem of conservation-reliance in the Anthropocene" is available online and from the U. of I. News Bureau.DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160736


The western corn rootworm was first classified as a corn pest in 1867. Its green relative, the northern corn rootworm, was classified as a corn pest in Illinois and Missouri by the late 1870s Credit: Joseph Spencer, Illinois Natural History Survey. According to estimates, the current global population is more than 7.4 billion people and is growing at a rate of 88 million people per year. Developing corn varieties that are resistant to pests is vital to sustain the estimated 9 billion global population by 2050. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri, using advanced nuclear methods, have determined the mechanisms corn plants use to combat the western corn rootworm, a major pest threatening the growth of the vital food source. Scientists believe that using the knowledge gained from these cutting-edge studies could help crop breeders in developing new resistant lines of corn and make significant strides toward solving global food shortages. "The western corn rootworm is a voracious pest," said Richard Ferrieri, a research professor in the MU Interdisciplinary Plant Group, and an investigator at the MU Research Reactor (MURR). "Rootworm larvae hatch in the soil during late spring and immediately begin feeding on the crop's root system. Mild damage to the root system can hinder water and nutrient uptake, threatening plant fitness, while more severe damage can result in the plant falling over." Breeding corn that can fight these pests is a promising alternative. Ferrieri, and his international team of researchers, including scientists from the University of Bern in Switzerland, Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, used radioisotopes to trace essential nutrients and hormones as they moved through live corn plants. In a series of tests, the team injected radioisotope tracers in healthy and rootworm-infested corn plants. "For some time, we've known that auxin, a powerful plant hormone, is involved in stimulating new root growth," Ferrieri said. "Our target was to follow auxin's biosynthesis and movement in both healthy and stressed plants and determine how it contributes to this process." By tagging auxin with a radioactive tracer, the researchers were able to use a medical diagnostic imaging tool call positron emission tomography, or PET imaging, to "watch" the movement of auxin in living plant roots in real time. Similarly, they attached a radioactive tracer to an amino acid called glutamine that is important in controlling auxin chemistry, and observed the pathways the corn plants used to transport glutamine and how it influenced auxin biosynthesis. The researchers found that auxin is tightly regulated at the root tissue level where rootworms are feeding. The study also revealed that auxin biosynthesis is vital to root regrowth and involves highly specific biochemical pathways that are influenced by the rootworm and triggered by glutamine metabolism. "This work has revealed several new insights about root regrowth in crops that can fend off a rootworm attack," Ferrieri said. "Our observations suggest that improving glutamine utilization could be a good place to start for crop breeding programs or for engineering rootworm-resistant corn for a growing global population." Ferrieri's work highlights the capabilities of the MURR, a crucial component to research at the university for more than 40 years. Operating 6.5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, scientists from across the campus use the 10-megawatt facility to not only provide crucial radioisotopes for clinical settings globally, but also to carbon date artifacts, improve medical diagnostic tools and prevent illness. MURR also is home to a PETrace cyclotron that is used to produced other radioisotopes for medical diagnostic imaging. The study, "Dynamic Precision Phenotyping Reveals Mechanism of Crop Tolerance to Root Herbivory," was published in Plant Physiology. Explore further: Benefits of Bt corn go beyond rootworm resistance More information: Dynamic Precision Phenotyping Reveals Mechanism of Crop Tolerance to Root Herbivory, dx.doi.org/10.1104/pp.16.00735


News Article | November 2, 2015
Site: phys.org

The study, published in Animal Behaviour, reveals that cowbird juveniles leave the host parents at dusk and spend their nights in nearby fields, returning just after daybreak. This behavior likely plays a role in the cowbirds' ability to avoid imprinting on their host parents. "If I took a chickadee and I put it in a titmouse nest, the chickadee would start learning the song of the titmouse and it would actually learn the titmouse behaviors," said Matthew Louder, who conducted the study as a Ph.D. student with Illinois Natural History Survey avian ecologist Jeff Hoover and INHS biological surveys coordinator Wendy Schelsky. "And then, when it was old enough, the chickadee would prefer to mate with the titmouse, which would be an evolutionary dead end," he said. Louder is now a postdoctoral researcher with East Carolina University in North Carolina and Hunter College in New York. The imprinting process is widespread among birds and other animals, but brood parasites like the cowbird appear to be resistant to imprinting. They will imprint on a different species if confined with that species for an extended period of time in a cage, but the birds don't appear to do so in the wild. Cowbird hosts, such as the prothonotary warblers in this study, have their own habits and habitats, and seldom choose to live where the cowbirds live or eat what they eat. Prothonotary warblers, for example, live in forests and dine on insects and caterpillars. Cowbirds spend most of their adult lives in open fields and prairies, and while they do eat insects, about three-quarters of their diet consists of seeds. "Among other things, cowbirds have got to learn to eat like cowbirds or they're not going to survive very long," Hoover said. The researchers wanted to test the hypothesis that cowbird moms are the ones that lead their offspring out of the forest. There was some support for this idea. A recent study from the same team found that cowbird females don't simply abandon their eggs in another species' nest. They pay attention to whether the young birds survive, sometimes wrecking the nests of birds that kick the cowbird eggs out of their nests. The cowbird females also return to nests where young cowbirds survived to fledging age. Cowbird females are often spotted in the vicinity of cowbird nestlings, Schelsky said, and sometimes respond (with vocalizations, not food) to the nestlings' begging calls. To track the birds in the forest and prairie, the researchers put radio telemetry transmitters on the cowbird nestlings and on adult female cowbirds in the forest where the host parents made their nests. The team took blood from the birds and conducted genetic analyses to match the juveniles (and their radio signals) to their biological mothers. But tracking the birds, even with the radio transmitters, was next to impossible, Louder said. He tried for a year, but was unable to get meaningful data. Then study co-author Michael Ward, a professor of natural resources and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois, came up with a new approach. "He helped construct an automated telemetry system," Louder said. "We put up three radio towers, each with six antennas on it, so you have 360-degree directional coverage. All three towers track one individual cowbird at a time and then move to the next individual." With this system, Louder could track the location of each study bird every one-to-two minutes. "We were able to watch the juveniles and see if they left the forest at the same time as a female and, if so, whether that female was their mom," he said. "Strangely enough, the juveniles did not follow the females out of the forest," Louder said. Instead, they left on their own, after dark, returning only the following morning, he said. "I started seeing this in the data and I thought it was wrong," Louder said. So he went to the forest and followed a single juvenile cowbird for one night. The bird left the forest in the evening, moving to a rosebush on the adjacent prairie. It was out there all night, alone. "As soon as the sun came up, the juvenile flew back into the forest and to the warbler's territory," Louder said. "Without the automated radio telemetry, I would have assumed that it had stayed in the forest all night." The discovery doesn't explain how cowbirds find their way into a cowbird flock, where they learn most of their social and survival skills and eventually find a mate. But it does offer some insight into the processes that allow young cowbirds to avoid imprinting on their hosts, the researchers said. "Clearly, there's a lot more to these birds than people would have thought," Hoover said. "We still have more layers to peel away from this onion that is the cowbird." More information: Matthew I.M. Louder et al. Out on their own: a test of adult-assisted dispersal in fledgling brood parasites reveals solitary departures from hosts, Animal Behaviour (2015). DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.09.009


News Article | March 4, 2016
Site: phys.org

That's the conclusion of a new study conducted by University of Arkansas biologists Michael Douglas and Marlis Douglas and their colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Western Kentucky University. The researchers published their findings in the journal PLOS One. The research team, using head shapes and genetic analyses, recommend that six groups of subspecies of the western rattlesnake be elevated to full species status, with the following names: The scientific and standard English names will be submitted to the International Committee on Zoological Nomenclature for ratification. The study has important implications for ecological conservation efforts across the United States, said Michael Douglas, professor of biological sciences and Twenty-First Century Chair in Global Change Biology. "These snakes have been long been recognized by herpetologists as being demonstrably different, and in fact were designated as western rattlesnake subspecies in the first half of the 20th century," Douglas said. "None are currently considered rare, but species designation allows them to gain certain legal protection, particularly within individual states." Marlis Douglas, associate professor of biological sciences and Bruker Chair of Life Sciences, said the genetic data were also evaluated to identify these snakes as individual species. The Douglases collaborated with Mark Davis, research scientist at the Illinois Natural History Survey, part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, and Michael Collyer, associate professor of biology at Western Kentucky University. As part of his doctoral research, Davis collected data from nearly 3,000 western rattlesnakes available in natural history museums across the western United States. In addition to genetic traits, the team examined head shape, which can vary drastically between different species of snakes and potentially reflect what kind of prey the snake prefers. Explore further: Mysterious fungus killing snakes in at least nine states More information: Mark A. Davis et al. Correction: Deconstructing a Species-Complex: Geometric Morphometric and Molecular Analyses Define Species in the Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis), PLOS ONE (2016). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149712


News Article | January 28, 2016
Site: www.biosciencetechnology.com

Using head shape and genetic analyses, new research challenges the formerly designated subspecies within the western rattlesnake species. These findings have important implications for ecological conservation efforts across the United States and could provide the basis for new species designations. The results are published in the journal PLOS ONE. The western rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) is found across a significant portion of the United States, from Mexico to Canada and from the Missouri River to the West Coast. Most work classifying rattlesnake species and subspecies was conducted in the mid-20th century. Since then, scientific methods have advanced to allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the path of rattlesnake evolution. Mark Davis, a research scientist at the Illinois Natural History Survey, part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, collected data from nearly 3,000 western rattlesnakes for this study. He gathered data from preserved samples of this group available at natural history museums across the western United States. “We are able to see that these different subspecies, which have different habits, live in different areas and have other different characteristics, have heads that have been shaped differently over evolutionary time,” Davis said. For western rattlesnakes, the head is the primary organ for conducting daily life. It is especially important for feeding and reproductive rituals. Head shape has evolved to better accommodate these critical behaviors, Davis said. The shape can vary drastically between different species of snakes. Given the importance of this feature, Davis and his colleagues used geometric morphometrics, a relatively novel method that allows researchers to quantify head shape without any influence of head size. To complement the shape analyses, Davis and his team analyzed genetic data from the snakes. Combining head shape and genetic information created a comprehensive perspective, Davis said. Together, these data confirm that several groups of snakes previously labeled as subspecies have substantial enough differences to qualify for a separate species designation. One of the greatest challenges to ecological conservation is identifying what species actually exist. For legal protections – including the Endangered Species Act – to be effective, scientists must specifically identify the units of biodiversity that may be in need of protection. ”It’s important to me to try to work with conservation practitioners to develop strategies for preserving biodiversity,” Davis said. With this study, Davis and his colleagues recommend officially elevating to the level of full species several groups of snakes previously believed to be subspecies. Davis expects that the national and international organizations responsible for naming various species will adopt the recommendations proposed in the study.


News Article | January 27, 2016
Site: phys.org

The results are published in the journal PLOS ONE. The western rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) is found across a significant portion of the United States, from Mexico to Canada and from the Missouri River to the West Coast. Most work classifying rattlesnake species and subspecies was conducted in the mid-20th century. Since then, scientific methods have advanced to allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the path of rattlesnake evolution. Mark Davis, a research scientist at the Illinois Natural History Survey, part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, collected data from nearly 3,000 western rattlesnakes for this study. He gathered data from preserved samples of this group available at natural history museums across the western United States. "We are able to see that these different subspecies, which have different habits, live in different areas and have other different characteristics, have heads that have been shaped differently over evolutionary time," Davis said. For western rattlesnakes, the head is the primary organ for conducting daily life. It is especially important for feeding and reproductive rituals. Head shape has evolved to better accommodate these critical behaviors, Davis said. The shape can vary drastically between different species of snakes. Given the importance of this feature, Davis and his colleagues used geometric morphometrics, a relatively novel method that allows researchers to quantify head shape without any influence of head size. To complement the shape analyses, Davis and his team analyzed genetic data from the snakes. Combining head shape and genetic information created a comprehensive perspective, Davis said. Together, these data confirm that several groups of snakes previously labeled as subspecies have substantial enough differences to qualify for a separate species designation. One of the greatest challenges to ecological conservation is identifying what species actually exist. For legal protections - including the Endangered Species Act - to be effective, scientists must specifically identify the units of biodiversity that may be in need of protection. "It's important to me to try to work with conservation practitioners to develop strategies for preserving biodiversity," Davis said. With this study, Davis and his colleagues recommend officially elevating to the level of full species several groups of snakes previously believed to be subspecies. Davis expects that the national and international organizations responsible for naming various species will adopt the recommendations proposed in the study. More information: Deconstructing a Species-Complex: Geometric Morphometric and Molecular Analyses Define Species in the Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis), dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0146166


Recently, Dr. Brendan O. Morris and Dr. Christopher H. Dietrich, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, discovered a new treehopper genus (and its single species) that is found in Texas and northern Mexico, which they describe in an article in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America. They named the new genus Selenacentrus after the singer Selena Quintanilla, who was known as the "Queen of Tejano Music." The new species is called wallacei in honor of Matthew S. Wallace, a biology professor from East Stroudsburg University. The scientists discovered Selenacentrus wallacei after examining 45 specimens of mislabeled treehoppers that were borrowed from collections at the Illinois Natural History Survey, the United States National Museum of Natural History, the American Museum of Natural History, Texas A&M University, and the University of Missouri. Treehoppers are found on all major landmasses except Antarctica and Madagascar. Numbering about 3,500 species in 300 genera, they are divided into three families: Aetalionidae, Melizoderidae, and Membracidae. All treehoppers feed on plant sap by sucking it out with piercing mouthparts. They feed on more than 100 herbaceous and woody plant species. Some treehoppers exude sweet "honeydew" from excess consumed sap, which they share with ants in a mutualistic relationship, the ants swilling honeydew and protecting the treehoppers from predators. Some treehoppers are also known to form mutualistic relationships with wasps and bees. Explore further: 9 new wasp species of the genus Paramblynotus described from Africa and Madagascar More information: B. O. Morris et al. Hidden in Plain Sight: A Remarkable New Genus of Nearctic Treehoppers (Hemiptera: Membracidae), Annals of the Entomological Society of America (2016). DOI: 10.1093/aesa/saw008


The greater prairie chicken once dominated the American Midwest, but today the bird is in trouble in many parts of its historic range. It is no longer found in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas or Wyoming, states where it once flourished. And in Illinois, an estimated 186 birds remain in two adjoining counties in the southern part of the state. "They used to be all over the state," said Illinois Natural History Survey conservation biologist Mark Davis, who participated in a genetic analysis of the Illinois birds. "This was the tallgrass prairie state. You couldn't throw a rock into a field without hitting a prairie chicken." The reason for the decline is simple, Davis said. "We changed our land-use practices from having a lot of prairie, then to wheat, hay and alfalfa, and now to vast expanses of corn and soybeans," he said. "Prairie chickens used to have 20 million acres of prairie in Illinois. Now, they have around 2,000. At the same time, population size went from 10 to 14 million in the 1860s to the 100 to 200 or so we have today. There just isn't enough habitat." Environmental officials have made two efforts to rescue Illinois' dwindling prairie chicken populations, which are suffering from a lack of habitat and declining genetic diversity. Between 1992 and 1998, teams imported more than 200 prairie chickens from other states. "In Illinois, the first translocation brought in birds from all over the upper Midwest - from North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Nebraska," Davis said. "And for a short period of time, it seemed to work." More chicks survived to reproductive age and genetic diversity spiked, he said. To understand how well the birds were doing long after that first translocation, Davis and his colleagues analyzed the DNA from feathers collected in the birds' courtship grounds from 2010-13. The researchers report their findings in the journal Royal Society Open Science. "What our paper reveals is that about 20 years after the translocation of new prairie chickens into Illinois, we see another decrease in genetic diversity and a decline in the number of birds," Davis said. The study confirmed that the only two remaining populations of prairie chickens in Illinois—one in Marion County and the other in Jasper County—are genetically isolated from one another, Davis said. The birds have access to a few hundred acres of territory overall, but the land is subdivided by roads and power lines, which represent additional barriers. "They're also surrounded by an agricultural desert of corn and soybeans," Davis said. The study identified 88 unique males using the courtship grounds, where the birds strut and boom to attract females. The team estimates that roughly the same number of females live in Illinois. The researchers' conclusion: A lack of habitat endangers prairie chickens' long-term survival in Illinois. Without periodic human intervention - in the form of translocations of birds from other states - the population could die out. "This is the issue that sage grouse are facing out West," Davis said. "This is the issue that lesser prairie chickens are facing in Texas and Oklahoma. These are big birds that need a big landscape that we don't have anymore." There are still strongholds for prairie chickens in Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota, Davis said. In western Minnesota, for example, a tradition of protection for game animals and a hefty excise tax on hunting and fishing licenses has allowed the state to purchase lands and protect a patchwork of interconnected grassland habitat, he said. "Now you have this swath of restored prairie and the birds are doing really well—so much so that a few years ago, on a very limited basis, Minnesota was able to have the first prairie chickens taken by hunting in many years," he said. But Illinois has strong agricultural traditions, and Davis doesn't foresee a similar effort in the state. "Providing food for the world does come at a cost, and that cost is habitat for wildlife," he said. "To sustain prairie chickens in Illinois, we have two options," Davis said. "We can purchase and restore as much prairie habitat as possible. In lieu of that, we need to support the periodic translocations of new birds to Illinois to preserve this prairie icon." More information: S. M. Mussmann et al, Genetic rescue, the greater prairie chicken and the problem of conservation reliance in the Anthropocene, Royal Society Open Science (2017). DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160736


A stonefly nymph, a large species measuring 2 inches (5 cm) in length from the mainland. Credit: Dr. Dr. R. Edward DeWalt Massive glaciers once covered an island in one of the Great Lakes, USA, leaving it largely devoid of life. Its subsequent recolonisation by insects triggered the curiosity of entomologist R. Edward DeWalt and graduate student Eric J. South of the Illinois Natural History Survey and Department of Entomology. Not only did they prove there were significantly fewer species, compared to the mainland, but also that smaller stonefly species appeared to be more capable of recolonizing the island. This study was published in the open-access journal ZooKeys . Isle Royale is a large island and national park in the middle of Lake Superior, isolated from the mainland by 22—70 km distance. As recently as 8,000—10,000 years ago, glaciers completely covered the island making it almost uninhabitable. Over the last 10 millennia mammals as large as moose and wolves, swam, floated, flew, or walked on ice bridges to the island. Therefore, it seemed logical that it was the larger size that allowed some species to cross the water. However, as far as stoneflies are concerned, the results turned out quite different. "We sampled stoneflies (Plecoptera), mayflies (Ephemeroptera), and caddisflies (Trichoptera), because they are important water quality indicators. Our laboratory has expertise in the taxonomy and ecology of these important species and we know that national parks potentially provide us with wilderness quality conditions," says DeWalt. Being much better fliers, the mayflies and caddisflies did not show a particular relation between a species' body size and their ability to recolonise the island. Conversely, stoneflies on the island were considerably smaller than their mainland counterparts. "Stoneflies are clumsy fliers, especially the larger species. Large ones are not very aerodynamic and because of this they don't have the energy reserves to cover the distance to the island. Few species of stoneflies can actually live in the lake, so most could not swim to the island," explains DeWalt. "Mayflies and caddisflies, on the other hand, are known to be better fliers and tolerant of lake conditions, which would allow for more of the mainland species and similarly sized species to reach Isle Royale. "Smaller stoneflies have probably used updrafts from the mainland and prevailing winds to get to the island," the scientist suggests. "The wind just held them up until they reached the island." Explore further: Stoneflies mapped across Ohio, with implications for water quality and nature conservation More information: R. DeWalt et al. Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera on Isle Royale National Park, USA, compared to mainland species pool and size distribution, ZooKeys (2015). DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.532.6478


Pearse I.S.,Illinois Natural History Survey | Hipp A.L.,University of Illinois at Chicago
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2014

There is often an inverse relationship between the diversity of a plant community and the invasibility of that community by non-native plants. Native herbivores that colonize novel plants may contribute to diversity-invasibility relationships by limiting the relative success of non-native plants. Here, we show that, in large collections of non-native oak trees at sites across the USA, non-native oaks introduced to regions with greater oak species richness accumulated greater leaf damage than in regions with low oak richness. Underlying this trend was the ability of herbivores to exploit non-native plants that were close relatives to their native host. In diverse oak communities, non-native trees were on average more closely related to native trees and received greater leaf damage than those in depauperate oak communities. Because insect herbivores colonize non-native plants that are similar to their native hosts, in communities with greater native plant diversity, non-natives experience greater herbivory. © 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.

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