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Herbivore intoxication as a potential primary function of an inducible volatile plant signal

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2016
Author Veyrat Nathalie, Robert Christelle Aurélie Maud, Turlings Ted Christiaan Johannes, Erb Matthias,
Project Benzoxazinoid derivatives at the plant-insect interface: An integrated approach to understand a metabolic network
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Ecology
Volume (Issue) 104(2)
Page(s) 591 - 600
Title of proceedings Journal of Ecology
DOI 10.1111/1365-2745.12526


Plants release herbivore-induced volatiles (HIPVs), which can be used as cues by plants, herbivores and natural enemies. Theory predicts that HIPVs may initially have evolved because of their direct benefits for the emitter and were subsequently adopted as infochemicals. Here, we investigated the potential direct benefits of indole, a major HIPV constituent of many plant species and a key defence priming signal in maize. We used indole-deficient maize mutants and synthetic indole at physiologically relevant doses to document the impact of the volatile on the generalist herbivore Spodoptera littoralis. Our experiments demonstrate that indole directly decreases food consumption, plant damage and survival of S.littoralis caterpillars. Surprisingly, exposure to volatile indole increased caterpillar growth. Furthermore, we show that S.littoralis caterpillars and adults consistently avoid indole-producing plants in olfactometer experiments, feeding assays and oviposition trials.Synthesis. Together, these results provide a potential evolutionary trajectory by which the release of a HIPV as a direct defence precedes its use as a cue by herbivores and an alert signal by plants. Furthermore, our experiments show that the effects of a plant secondary metabolite on weight gain and food consumption can diverge in a counterintuitive manner, which implies that larval growth can be a poor proxy for herbivore fitness and plant resistance.