Plant responses to butterfly oviposition partly explain preference–performance relationships on different brassicaceous species

Eddie Griese, Ana Pineda, Foteini G. Pashalidou, Eleonora Pizarro Iradi, Monika Hilker, Marcel Dicke, Nina E. Fatouros*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The preference–performance hypothesis (PPH) states that herbivorous female insects prefer to oviposit on those host plants that are best for their offspring. Yet, past attempts to show the adaptiveness of host selection decisions by herbivores often failed. Here, we tested the PPH by including often neglected oviposition-induced plant responses, and how they may affect both egg survival and larval weight. We used seven Brassicaceae species of which most are common hosts of two cabbage white butterfly species, the solitary Pieris rapae and gregarious P. brassicae. Brassicaceous species can respond to Pieris eggs with leaf necrosis, which can lower egg survival. Moreover, plant-mediated responses to eggs can affect larval performance. We show a positive correlation between P. brassicae preference and performance only when including the egg phase: 7-day-old caterpillars gained higher weight on those plant species which had received most eggs. Pieris eggs frequently induced necrosis in the tested plant species. Survival of clustered P. brassicae eggs was unaffected by the necrosis in most tested species and no relationship between P. brassicae egg survival and oviposition preference was found. Pieris rapae preferred to oviposit on plant species most frequently expressing necrosis although egg survival was lower on those plants. In contrast to the lower egg survival on plants expressing necrosis, larval biomass on these plants was higher than on plants without a necrosis. We conclude that egg survival is not a crucial factor for oviposition choices but rather egg-mediated responses affecting larval performance explained the preference–performance relationship of the two butterfly species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-475
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020



  • Egg-killing
  • Hypersensitive response
  • Oviposition-induced
  • Pieridae
  • Priming

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