Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plants tell caterpillars when it’s safe to forage

16.05.2006
The world is filled with cues that could influence the daily feeding patterns of an organism. Many plants, for example, respond to foraging damage by releasing specialized chemical signals—volatile organic compounds that evaporate in the air—that attract the forager’s natural enemies.

This strategy is obviously no use against a cow, but proves effective when the offender is a caterpillar and the summoned predator is a wasp. Just how much control such biotic factors exert over a forager’s daily routine has remained an open question. But in a new study in the open access journal PLoS Biology, Kaori Shiojiri, Rika Ozawa, and Junji Takabayashi show that plant signals can indeed regulate herbivore behavior.

When the larvae of beet armyworms (Spodoptera exigua) feed on corn, the plant releases volatile compounds that act as a magnet for parasitic wasps (Cotesia marginiventris), which deposit their eggs in the larvae. Production of volatile chemicals increases during the day (when wasps are active) and decreases at night, suggesting that variations in production might affect the daily activity patterns of foraging larvae, with low production sending the signal that the coast is clear. To test this hypothesis, Shiojiri et al. exposed larvae of a corn-munching nocturnal caterpillar, Mythimna separata, to volatile compounds from corn and varied the light and dark conditions for both corn and insect. Corn infested with M. separata releases volatiles that attract parasitic wasps (C. kariyai).

The researchers separated the effects of photoperiod from that of host plant volatiles to tease out their relative contributions to caterpillar behavior. First, they tested the effects of light. If larvae are diurnal, they should hide in “shelters” fashioned out of filter paper attached to the plastic cups they were kept in. When larvae were fed an artificial diet, however, different light conditions produced no changes in their hiding behavior. But introducing plants changed larvae behavior under both day and night conditions. Six pots of three uninfested corn plants—plants that had never been grazed—were placed around the cups of larvae. After eight hours, about 20% more larvae went into hiding when the lights were on and plants were added. And when plants were introduced under dark conditions, about 30% less larvae were found hiding than were found in the dark without plants. Finally, to test the effect of plant volatiles directly, the researchers exposed larvae—some in the light and some in the dark—to a flow of volatiles collected from both uninfested and infested corn plants in light and dark conditions. When larvae in the dark were exposed to volatiles from uninfested plants, they hid in far greater numbers when the volatiles came from plants in the light than when they came from plants in the dark. And when larvae were in the light, far more hid when exposed to volatiles taken from plants in the light. Larvae responded similarly to volatiles taken from infested plants, though volatiles from infested plants in the light sent even more larvae into hiding.

These results demonstrate that it is not light that’s controlling larval diurnal and nocturnal activity but volatiles released by the corn. Volatile compounds released during the day encourage hiding while those released at night indicate that it’s safe to come out and eat. Just as parasitic wasps use plant volatiles to home in on potential victims, caterpillars use variations in their host plant’s volatile production to reduce the risk of unpleasant encounters with wasps. Now that they’ve established volatiles’ importance in influencing foraging behavior, the researchers plan to determine which compounds are responsible—and just how common insect–plant communication may be.

Citation: Shiojiri K, Ozawa R, Takabayashi J (2006) Plant volatiles, rather than light, determine the nocturnal behavior of a caterpillar. PLoS Biol 4(6): e164.

Paul Ocampo | alfa
Further information:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040164
http://www.plosbiology.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus
22.05.2017 | University of Toronto

nachricht Insight into enzyme's 3-D structure could cut biofuel costs
19.05.2017 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

Im Focus: Hydrogen Bonds Directly Detected for the First Time

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

Media accreditation opens for historic year at European Health Forum Gastein

16.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New approach to revolutionize the production of molecular hydrogen

22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences

Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus

22.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Experts explain origins of topographic relief on Earth, Mars and Titan

22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>