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 Minimized water consumption in CSP plants - EU project MinWaterCSP is making good progress
05.12.2017 | Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum

nachricht Jena Experiment: Loss of species destroys ecosystems
28.11.2017 | Technische Universität München

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: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Midwife and signpost for photons

11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas

11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>