The only 3 published studies relating vertebrate herbivores to plant fluctuating asymmetry (FA) found significant correlations between grazing intensity and plant FA. The general value of these early findings is unclear, however, because FA studies are sensitive to selective reporting, the tendency to publish only a subset of studies that were undertaken. From 2000 to 2003 we quantified the correlations between past herbivory and plant FA in 3 plant–herbivore systems centred on a single mammal species, the North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum). We measured leaf FA in pairs of paper birch (Betula papyriferae; n = 24 pairs), quaking aspen ( Populus tremuloides; n = 25 pairs), and jack pine ( Pinus banksiana; n = 15 pairs) trees each containing a control (uneaten) and test (eaten) tree. Although damage incurred by trees from porcupine browsing was severe, we found no statistical association between plant FA and herbivory. We obtained this finding even though our study design did capture subtle variations in plant FA associated to plant genotype or year of sampling. Our study contrasts with earlier findings that plant FA is related to herbivory pressure. There may have been a publication bias as a result of selective reporting in this field of research. Therefore, replication (same hypothesis, same study system) and quasireplication (same hypothesis, different study system) are particularly important.
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Vol. 14 • No. 2