Ecology and Evolution (2017) 7, 6304-6313

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Gaylord A. Desurmont, Angela Köhler, Daniel Maag, Diane Laplanche, Hao Xu, Julien Baumann, Camille Demairé, Delphine Devenoges, Mara Glavan, Leslie Mann and Ted C.J. Turlings (2017)
The spitting image of plant defenses: Effects of plant secondary chemistry on the efficacy of caterpillar regurgitant as an anti-predator defense
Ecology and Evolution 7 (16), 6304-6313
Abstract: In the arms race between plants, herbivores, and their natural enemies, specialized herbivores may use plant defenses for their own benefit, and variation in plant traits may affect the benefits that herbivores derive from these defenses. Pieris brassicae is a specialist herbivore of plants containing glucosinolates, a specific class of defensive secondary metabolites. Caterpillars of P. brassicae are known to actively spit on attacking natural enemies, including their main parasitoid, the braconid wasp Cotesia glomerata. Here, we tested the hypothesis that variation in the secondary metabolites of host plants affects the efficacy of caterpillar regurgitant as an anti-predator defense. Using a total of 10 host plants with different glucosinolate profiles, we first studied natural regurgitation events of caterpillars on parasitoids. We then studied manual applications of water or regurgitant on parasitoids during parasitization events. Results from natural regurgitation events revealed that parasitoids spent more time grooming after attack when foraging on radish and nasturtium than on Brassica spp., and when the regurgitant came in contact with the wings rather than any other body part. Results from manual applications of regurgitant showed that all parameters of parasitoid behavior (initial attack duration, attack interruption, grooming time, and likelihood of a second attack) were more affected when regurgitant was applied rather than water. The proportion of parasitoids re-attacking a caterpillar within 15 min was the lowest when regurgitant originated from radish-fed caterpillars. However, we found no correlation between glucosinolate content and regurgitant effects, and parasitoid behavior was equally affected when regurgitant originated from a glucosinolate-deficient Arabidopsis thaliana mutant line. In conclusion, host plant affects to a certain extent the efficacy of spit from P. brassicae caterpillars as a defense against parasitoids, but this is not due to glucosinolate content. The nature of the defensive compounds present in the spit remains to be determined, and the ecological relevance of this anti-predator defense needs to be further evaluated in the field.
(The abstract is excluded from the Creative Commons licence and has been copied with permission by the publisher.)
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Database assignments for author(s): G.A. Desurmont, Ted C.J. Turlings

Research topic(s) for pests/diseases/weeds:
biocontrol - natural enemies
Research topic(s) for beneficials or antagonists:
resistance/tolerance/defence of host


Pest and/or beneficial records:

Beneficial Pest/Disease/Weed Crop/Product Country Quarant.


Pieris brassicae Brassica - other species Switzerland
Cotesia glomerata (parasitoid) Pieris brassicae Switzerland