Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Aphids make ‘chemical weapons’ to fight off killer ladybirds

11.07.2007
Cabbage aphids have developed an internal chemical defence system which enables them to disable attacking predators by setting off a mustard oil ‘bomb’, says new research published today.

The study shows for the first time how aphids use a chemical found in the plants they eat to emit a deadly burst of mustard oil when they’re attacked by a predator, for example a ladybird. This mustard oil kills, injures or repels the ladybird, which then saves the colony of aphids from attack, although the individual aphid involved usually dies in the process.

When the aphids feed on cabbages, they consume chemicals called glucosinolates which are found in the nutrient transport vessels of the plant. Once eaten, these chemicals are then stored in the aphids’ blood. Mimicking the plants themselves, the aphids also produce an enzyme called myrosinase, which is stored in the muscles of their head and thorax. In the event of a predator attack this enzyme in the muscles comes into contact with the glucosinolates in the blood, catalysing a violent chemical reaction which releases mustard oil.

The research team from the UK and Norway confirmed their findings by controlling the diet of different groups of aphids. They found that those insects eating a diet rich in glucosinolates had a high success rate in fending off predators, whereas those without glucosinolates in their diet did not. Scientists already knew that aphids absorbed these chemicals from their food, but this study published Proceedings of the Royal Society B is the first of its kind to prove that they form the basis of a chemical defence system.

The scientists also found that the extent to which glucosinolates are stored up by the aphids from birth into adulthood depends on whether or not they develop wings. Those aphids that grow wings see a rapid decline in the amount of glucosinolates they store from the time wing buds start to develop.

Dr Glen Powell from Imperial College London’s Division of Biology, one of the paper’s authors, explains: “Our study seems to show that aphids that develop wings cease to store this chemical in their blood as they mature, as they don’t need the ‘mustard oil bomb’ to defend themselves from predators when they can just fly away. This is a great example of the way in which a species provides an ingenious method of protecting itself, whatever the circumstances.”

Dr Powell adds: “In the wild, aphids live in clonal colonies, with often many hundreds of individuals crowded together on a plant, and using this poisonous mustard oil defence provides wingless individuals with a powerful means of dispelling a predator which poses a risk to the entire colony. Unfortunately the nature of the mechanism – with the chemical stored in the insect’s blood and the catalyst stored in its muscles – means that in most cases the individual aphid responsible for seeing-off the ladybird predator dies in the process of protecting the colony.”

Danielle Reeves | alfa
Further information:
http://www.imperial.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>