Evol Ecol Res 3: 583-593 (2001)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Experimental evidence that plants under caterpillar attack may benefit from attracting parasitoids

Maria Elena Fritzsche Hoballah and Ted C.J. Turlings

Laboratoire d’Ecologie Animale et Entomologie, Institut de Zoologie, Université de Neuchâtel, Case postale 2, CH-2007 Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: ted.turlings@unine.ch


Herbivore-induced plant volatiles have been suggested to function as indirect defence signals that attract natural enemies of herbivores. Several insect parasitoids are known to exploit such plant-provided cues to locate hosts. It is unclear if individual plants benefit from the action of parasitoids. We investigated this question in maize plants under attack by Spodoptera littoralis larvae and found that parasitization by the endoparasitoids Cotesia marginiventris and Campoletis sonorensis significantly reduced feeding and weight gain in the host larvae. As a result, young maize plants attacked by a single parasitized larva suffered much less feeding damage and, at maturity, produced about 30% more seed than plants that were attacked by an unparasitized larva. Such fitness benefits may have contributed to selection pressures that shaped the evolution of herbivore-induced indirect defence signals in plants.

Keywords: Campoletis sonorensis, Cotesia marginiventris, indirect defence, parasitoids, plant fitness, plant–insect interactions, Spodoptera littoralis, Zea mays.

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