Chemical ecology of host-plant selection by herbivorous arthropods : a multitrophic perspective

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Most herbivorous arthropods are specialists that feed on one or a few related plant species. To understand why this is so, both mechanistic and functional studies have been carried out, predominantly restricted to bitrophic aspects. Host-selection behaviour of herbivorous arthropods has been intensively studied and this has provided ample evidence for the role of secondary plant chemicals as source of information in behavioural decisions of herbivores. Many evolutionary studies have regarded co-evolution between plants and herbivores to explain the diversity of secondary plant chemicals and host specialisation of herbivores. However, many cases remain unexplained where herbivores select host plants that are suboptimal in terms of fitness returns. A stimulating paper by Bernays and Graham [(1988) Ecology 69, 886–892)] has initiated a discussion on the need of a multitrophic perspective to understand the evolution of host-plant specialisation by herbivorous arthropods. However, this has hardly resulted in ecological studies on host-selection behaviour that take a multitrophic perspective. Yet, evidence is accumulating that constitutive and induced infochemicals from natural enemies and competitors can affect herbivore behaviour. These cues may constitute important information on fitness prospects, just as plant cues can do. In this paper I selectively review how information from organisms at different trophic levels varies in space and time and how herbivores can integratively exploit this information during host selection. In doing so, research areas are identified that are likely to provide important new insights to explain several of the questions in herbivore host selection that remain unanswered so far. These research areas are at the interface of evolutionary ecology, behavioural ecology and chemical ecology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-617
JournalBiochemical Systematics and Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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