Plant Sniffs out Danger to Prepare Defenses Against Pesky Insect
Dec. 17, 2012 — A plant may start to prime its defenses as soon as it gets a whiff of a male fly searching for a mate, according to Penn State entomologists.
Once tall goldenrod plants smell a sex attractant emitted by true fruit fly males, they appear to prepare chemical defenses that make them less appealing to female flies that could damage the plants by depositing eggs on them, the researchers said.
“It’s become increasingly clear in recent years that plants are responsive to odors,” said Mark Mescher, assistant professor of entomology. “But previous examples of this are all plant-to-plant. For example, some plants have been shown to respond to the odor of insect-damaged neighbors by priming their own defenses. What’s new about this is that it seems that plants may sometimes be able to smell the insects themselves.”
A tall goldenrod plant’s reaction to these odors also appears to make it less attractive to other insects that might feed on it, according to the researchers, who reported their findings in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [ … Read More ]