Getting prepared for future attack : induction of plant defences by herbivore egg deposition and consequences for the insect community

F.G. Pashalidou

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

Plants have evolved intriguing defences against insect herbivores. Compared to constitutive Plants have evolved intriguing defences against insect herbivores. Compared to constitutive defences that are always present, plants can respond with inducible defences when they are attacked. Insect herbivores can induce phenotypic changes in plants and consequently these changes may differentially affect subsequent attackers and their associated insect communities. Many studies consider herbivore-feeding damage as the first interaction between plants and insects. The originality of this study was to start with the first phase of herbivore attack, egg deposition, to understand the consequences of plant responses to eggs on subsequently feeding caterpillars and their natural enemies. The main plant species used for most of the experiments was Brassica nigra (black mustard), which occurs naturally in The Netherlands. The main herbivore used was the lepidopteran Pieris brassicae, which lays eggs in clusters and feeds on plants belonging to the Brassicaceae family. This study investigated plant-mediated responses to oviposition and their effects on different developmental stages of the herbivore, such as larvae and pupae. Furthermore, the effects of oviposition were extended to four more plant species of the same family, and to higher trophic levels including parasitoids and hyperparasitoids. The experiments were conducted under laboratory, semi-field and field conditions. This study shows that B. nigra plants recognize the eggs of P. brassicae and initiate resistance against subsequent developmental stages of the herbivore. Interestingly, plant responses to oviposition were found to be species specific. Plants did not respond to egg deposition by another herbivore species, the generalist moth Mamestra brassicae. Moreover, most of the Brassicaceae species tested were found to respond to P. brassicae eggs, which indicates that plant responses against oviposition are more common among the family of Brassicaceae. To assess effects on other members of the food chain, the effects of oviposition on plant volatile emission and the attraction of parasitic wasps, such as the larval parasitoid Cotesia glomerata, were tested. It was shown that the wasps were able to use the blend of plant volatiles, altered by their hosts’ oviposition, to locate young caterpillars just after hatching from eggs. The observed behaviour of the wasps was associated with higher parasitism success and higher fitness in young hosts. Similar results were obtained in a field experiment, where plants infested with eggs and caterpillars attracted more larval parasitoids and hyperparasitoids and eventually produced more seeds compared to plants infested with caterpillars only. This study shows that an annual weed like B. nigra uses egg deposition as reliable information for upcoming herbivory and responds accordingly with induced defences. Egg deposition could influence plant-associated community members at different levels in the food chain and benefit seed production. As the importance of oviposition on plant-herbivore interactions is only recently discovered, more research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms that underlie such plant responses and how these interactions affect the structure of insect communities in nature.

 

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Dicke, Marcel, Promotor
  • van Loon, Joop, Promotor
  • Fatouros, Nina, Co-promotor
Award date18 Sep 2015
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789462574120
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • insect plant relations
  • plants
  • insect pests
  • herbivory
  • defence mechanisms
  • induced resistance
  • herbivore induced plant volatiles
  • oviposition
  • natural enemies
  • brassica
  • pieris brassicae
  • trophic levels
  • parasitoid wasps
  • hyperparasitoids
  • insect communities

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