Thursday, 1 September 2016

Moth takes advantage of defensive compounds in Physalis fruits


August 26, 2016

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology found that the specialist moth Heliothis subflexa benefits from secondary plant components by turning the original defensive function of these compounds into its own advantage. Withanolides, which are present in Physalis plants, usually act as immune suppressants and feeding deterrents in insects. Surprisingly, Heliothis subflexa uses these plant defenses as immune-system boosters. Moreover, withanolides protect the moth from harmful effects caused by pathogenic bacteria. The new study demonstrates a unique benefit to host-plant specialization.

In order to survive and to repel herbivores, many plants defend themselves by producing toxic or deterrent substances. In the course of evolution, many insects have succeeded in adapting to the defensive chemistry of their host plants and thereby circumventing plants' defence mechanisms. However, the plants have also adapted their defensive system to further protect themselves against their enemies, which, in turn, generated counter-adaptations in the insects; biologists refer to this phenomenon as an "evolutionary arms race" between plants and insects. Many insects are plant pests which can be categorized as "specialists" and "generalists." Whereas generalists feed on many different plants, specialists have adapted to one or few closely related plant species as their food. The moth species Heliothis subflexa analysed in this new study is such a host specialist.



No comments:

Post a comment

You only need to enter your comment once! Comments will appear once they have been moderated. This is so as to stop the would-be comedian who has been spamming the comments here with inane and often offensive remarks. You know who you are!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

ShareThis