But that's not so for the crop pest hornworm caterpillar, a study shows.
While other animals increase metabolism and stop growing or developing during a defensive period, hornworm caterpillars slow or stop eating but actually keep up their weight and develop a little faster in the short term. Ian Kaplan, a Purdue University assistant professor of entomology; Jennifer S. Thaler, an associate professor of entomology at Cornell University; and Scott H. McArt, a graduate student at Cornell, noticed that hornworm caterpillars ate 30 percent to 40 percent less when threatened by stink bugs but weighed the same as their non-threatened counterparts.
"It was a little puzzling. If you're going to shut down, there should be a cost associated with that," said Kaplan, who studied the caterpillars as a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell. "We usually think that you can either grow really fast and not defend yourself, or defend yourself but pay a physical penalty. That wasn't happening here."
Threatened hornworm caterpillars adapt to increase the efficiency by which they convert food into energy. They also increase the amount of nitrogen they extract from their food and their bodies' lipid content. In the first three days of the study, the caterpillars weighed the same and reached the next developmental stage faster than caterpillars eating in safety.
Over the long term, however, their body compositions change and their ability to turn food into energy is reduced in later developmental stages. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, reveal that hornworm caterpillars are the first insect species shown to delay the physical penalties associated with protecting themselves from predators.
Hornworm caterpillars eat tomato, tobacco, pepper and other crops. Kaplan said understanding their physiology may lead to better ways to control the pests.
Kaplan said the scientists found an interesting way to work around a major roadblock in studying the physiological changes in the caterpillars exposed to predators. They "disarmed" the predators.
Stink bugs normally would use their mouthparts to stab the caterpillar and suck out its internal parts. But the scientists removed part of the stink bugs' mouthparts, allowing them to hunt but not eat.
"We created a predator that couldn't kill its prey," Kaplan said. "It was a way to be able to expose the prey to a risk and still be able to study the physiological responses of the prey."
The scientists also wondered whether the physiological responses were due to the presence of the predator or simply from a lack of food. To test, they removed food from some caterpillars that had eaten as much as a caterpillar facing a predator. Other caterpillars were given food off and on until they had eaten the same amount as one facing a predator to better mimic those same feeding patterns.
In both cases, the caterpillars weighed less and did not exhibit the same physiological changes as their hunted counterparts.
"This is a predator response rather than a physiological response due to a lack of food," Kaplan said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture funded the research.
Writer: Brian Wallheimer, 765-496-2050, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Ian Kaplan, 765-494-7207, email@example.com
Compensatory Mechanisms for Ameliorating the Fundamental Trade-off Between Predator Avoidance and Foraging
Jennifer S. Thaler, Scott H. McArt, and Ian Kaplan
Most organisms face the problem of foraging and maintaining growth while avoiding predators. Typical animal responses to predator exposure include reduced feeding, elevated metabolism and altered development rate, all of which can be beneficial in the presence of predators but detrimental in their absence. How then do animals balance growth and predator avoidance? In a series of field and greenhouse experiments, we document that the tobacco hornworm caterpillar, Manduca sexta, reduced feeding by 30–40% owing to the risk of predation by stinkbugs, but developed more rapidly and gained the same mass as unthreatened caterpillars. Assimilation efficiency, extraction of nitrogen from food, and percent body lipid content all increased during the initial phase (1-3 d) of predation risk, indicating that enhanced nutritional physiology allows caterpillars to compensate when threatened. However, we report physiological costs of predation risk, including altered body composition (decreased glycogen) and reductions in assimilation efficiency later in development. Our findings indicate that hornworm caterpillars use temporally dynamic compensatory mechanisms that ameliorate the trade-off between predator avoidance and growth in the short term, deferring costs to a period when they are less vulnerable to predation.
Brian Wallheimer | Newswise Science News
The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences