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Induced Defences in Tomato Plants Cause Cannibalism among Pests
Posted by: Prof. Dr. M. Raupp (IP Logged)
Date: August 01, 2017 06:40AM

Tomato plants can influence caterpillars to become cannibals, according to a
study conducted by scientists from the University of Wisconsin. The results
are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Herbivorous pests have been known to eat each other when there is shortage
of food. Some plants also influence pests by making them more predatory
towards other insect species. In the study conducted by UW integrative
biologist John Orrock and team, a defensive reaction in tomato plants was
triggered by exposing them to methyl jasmonate (MeJA), an airborne chemical
that plants release to alert others about an impending danger. When tomato
plants sense meJA, they react by producing toxins that make them less
nutritious to insects. Then the the tomato plants were exposed to
caterpillars of a common pest, the small mottled willow moth. After eight
days, the tomato plants more strongly alarmed by MeJA had lost less biomass
compared with control plants or those plants that received less alarm from
MeJA. This implied that the reaction was effective at protecting the tomato

After two days, the researchers observed that caterpillars fed with leaves
from the treated plants had turned onto the dead larvae earlier, and had
eaten more of them, than those fed with leaves from control plants.


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