Plant defence to sequential attack is adapted to prevalent herbivores

Daan Mertens, Maite Fernández de Bobadilla, Quint Rusman, Janneke Bloem, Jacob C. Douma, Erik H. Poelman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Plants have evolved plastic defence strategies to deal with the uncertainty of when, by which species and in which order attack by herbivores will take place1–3. However, the responses to current herbivore attack may come with a cost of compromising resistance to other, later arriving herbivores. Due to antagonistic cross-talk between physiological regulation of plant resistance to phloem-feeding and leaf-chewing herbivores4–8, the feeding guild of the initial herbivore is considered to be the primary factor determining whether resistance to subsequent attack is compromised. We show that, by investigating 90 pairwise insect–herbivore interactions among ten different herbivore species, resistance of the annual plant Brassica nigra to a later arriving herbivore species is not explained by feeding guild of the initial attacker. Instead, the prevalence of herbivore species that arrive on induced plants as approximated by three years of season-long insect community assessments in the field explained cross-resistance. Plants maintained resistance to prevalent herbivores in common patterns of herbivore arrival and compromises in resistance especially occurred for rare patterns of herbivore attack. We conclude that plants tailor induced defence strategies to deal with common patterns of sequential herbivore attack and anticipate arrival of the most prevalent herbivores.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1347-1353
Number of pages7
JournalNature Plants
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Plant defence to sequential attack is adapted to prevalent herbivores'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this