Arthropod-Plant Interactions (2012) 6, 635-647

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Alexsis J. Wilson, Mark Schutze and David Elmouttie (2012)
Are insect frugivores always plant pests? The impact of fruit fly (Diptera: Tephritidae) larvae on host plant fitness
Arthropod-Plant Interactions 6 (4), 635-647
Abstract: Herbivory is generally regarded as negatively impacting on host plant fitness. Frugivorous insects, which feed directly on plant reproductive tissues, are predicted to be particularly damaging to hosts. We tested this prediction with the fruit fly, Bactrocera tryoni, by recording the impact of larval feeding on two direct (seed number and germination) and two indirect (fruit decay rate and attraction/deterrence of vertebrate frugivores) measures of host plant fitness. Experiments were done in the laboratory, glasshouse and tropical rainforest. We found no negative impact of larval feeding on seed number or germination for three test plants: tomato, capsicum and eggplant. Further, larval feeding accelerated the initiation of decay and increased the final level of fruit decay in tomatoes, apples, pawpaw and pear, a result considered to be beneficial to the fruit. In rainforest studies, native rodents preferred infested apple and pears compared to uninfested control fruit; however, there were no differences observed between treatments for tomato and pawpaw. For our study fruits, these results demonstrate that fruit fly larval infestation has neutral or beneficial impacts on the host plant, an outcome which may be largely influenced by the physical properties of the host. These results may contribute to explaining why fruit flies have not evolved the same level of host specialization generally observed for other herbivore groups.
(The abstract is excluded from the Creative Commons licence and has been copied with permission by the publisher.)
Link to article at publishers website


Research topic(s) for pests/diseases/weeds:
environment - cropping system/rotation


Pest and/or beneficial records:

Beneficial Pest/Disease/Weed Crop/Product Country Quarant.
Bactrocera tryoni Apple (Malus)
Bactrocera tryoni Eggplant (Solanum melongena)
Bactrocera tryoni Pear (Pyrus)
Bactrocera tryoni Green pepper/chilli (Capsicum)
Bactrocera tryoni Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)
Bactrocera tryoni Papaya (Carica papaya)