Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Caterpillar Gets More From Its Food When Predator Is on the Prowl

13.07.2012
Animals that choose to eat in the presence of a predator run the risk of being eaten themselves, so they often go into a defensive mode and pay a physical penalty for the lack of nutrients.

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, bwallhei@purdue.edu

Source: Ian Kaplan, 765-494-7207, ikaplan@purdue.edu

ABSTRACT

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
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>