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Ann Bot. 2008 Oct;102(4):653-6. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcn130. Epub 2008 Aug 11.

A novel mechanism by which silica defends grasses against herbivory.

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  • 1Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Jackson's Mill, PO Box 88, Manchester M60 1QD, UK.

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND AIMS:

Previous studies have shown that silica in grass leaves defends them against small herbivores, which avoid high-silica grasses and digest them less efficiently. This study tested the idea that silica can reduce digestibility by preventing the mechanical breakdown of chlorenchyma cells.

METHODS:

Both the percentage of total chlorophyll liberated from high- and low-silica grass leaves by mechanical grinding and the chlorophyll content of locust faeces were measured.

KEY RESULTS:

High-silica grasses released less chlorophyll after grinding and retained more after passing through the gut of locusts, showing that silica levels correlated with increased mechanical protection.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results suggest that silica may defend grasses at least in part by reducing mechanical breakdown of the leaf, and that mechanical protection of resources in chlorenchyma cells is a novel and potentially important mechanism by which silica protects grasses.

PMID:
18697757
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2701777
Free PMC Article
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