Projects per year
It is fascinating that our ecological systems are structured by both direct and indirect species interactions. In terrestrial ecosystems, plants interact with many species of insects that include both harmful herbivores and beneficial natural enemies of herbivores. During the last 30 years, substantial progress has been made in different plant-insect systems regarding plant trait-mediated species interactions in a tritrophic context. However, plant-based food webs generally consist of more than three trophic levels. For example, hyperparasitoids are parasitic wasps at the fourth trophic level within the plant-associated insect community. They parasitize larvae or pupae of primary parasitoids that are broadly used in biological pest control programmes. Surprisingly, the cues that hyperparasitoids use for host location have remained largely unknown.
The studies presented in this thesis aimed to investigate the cues that are used by hyperparasitoids in host location using an ecogenomic approach that combines metabolomic, transcriptomic and proteomic tools with behavioural studies and field experiments. In addition, we addressed the role of herbivore-associated organisms in plant-mediated indirect species interactions. A naturally existing study system of the Brassica oleracea plant-based food web, including four trophic levels was used. In this system, the two herbivorous insect species, Pieris brassicae and P. rapae, are specialists on Brassica plants. The plants emit herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) in response to Pieris caterpillar feeding damage which results in attraction of natural enemies of the herbivores, i.e. Cotesia wasps. These parasitic wasps, in turn, are attacked by hyperparasitoids, such as Lysiba nana. The results presented in this thesis show that hyperparasitoids also use HIPVs for host searching. Interestingly, they are especially attracted by plant odours induced by parasitized caterpillars. Moreover, hyperparasitoids can also use caterpillar body odours to find their hosts at close distance. These findings indicate that infochemicals are the major cues that mediate host searching behaviour of hyperparastioids. Similar to other herbivore-associated organisms, parasitoid larvae feeding inside a herbivore host can induce both behavioral and physiological changes in the host. To further investigate how parasitoid larvae indirectly affect plant responses to herbivory and plant volatile-mediated multitrophic interactions, the role of caterpillar labial salivary glands in plant-hyperparasitoid interactions were investigated. The secretions of labial saliva were eliminated by using an ablation technique. Remarkably, the results show that when the labial salivary glands of the caterpillars were completely removed, plants induced by either unparasitized or Cotesia glomerata-parasitized caterpillars were equally attractive to the hyperparasitoid. Moreover, plants became less attractive to the hyperparasitoid when damaged by ablated caterpillars compared to plants damaged by mock-treated caterpillars and the hyperparasitoids were not able to distinguish between volatiles emitted by herbivore-damaged plants and undamaged control plants when caterpillar salivary glands had been removed. These results suggest that parasitism alters the composition of labial saliva of parasitized caterpillar, which thereby alters the plant phenotype and subsequently plant-hyperparasitoid interactions. The outcomes of this thesis contribute to our understanding of the role of infochemicals in foraging decisions of hyperparasitoids.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||2 Oct 2015|
|Place of Publication||Wageningen|
|Publication status||Published - 2015|
- insect plant relations
- insect pests
- defence mechanisms
- plant-herbivore interactions
- herbivore induced plant volatiles