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Oecologia. 2007 Dec;154(3):505-12. Epub 2007 Sep 21.

Tri-trophic consequences of UV-B exposure: plants, herbivores and parasitoids.

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  • 1Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, Davy 617, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK.


In this paper we demonstrate a UV-B-mediated link between host plants, herbivores and their parasitoids, using a model system consisting of a host plant Brassica oleracea, a herbivore Plutella xylostella and its parasitoid Cotesia plutellae. Ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B) is a potent elicitor of a variety of changes in the chemistry, morphology and physiology of plants and animals. Recent studies have demonstrated that common signals, such as jasmonic acid (JA), play important roles in the mechanisms by which plants respond to UV-B and to damage by herbivores. Plant responses elicited by UV-B radiation can affect the choices of ovipositing female insects and the fitness of their offspring. This leads to the prediction that, in plants, the changes induced as a consequence of UV damage will be similar to those elicited in response to insect damage, including knock-on effects upon the next trophic level, predators. In our trials female P. xylostella oviposited preferentially on host plants grown in depleted UV-B conditions, while their larvae preferred to feed on tissues from UV-depleted regimes over those from UV-supplemented ones. Larval feeding patterns on UV-supplemented tissues met the predictions of models which propose that induced defences in plants should disperse herbivory; feeding scars were significantly smaller and more numerous--though not significantly so--than those on host plant leaves grown in UV-depleted conditions. Most importantly, female parasitoids also showed a clear pattern of preference when given the choice between host plants and attendant larvae from the different UV regimes; however, in the case of the female parasitoids, the choice was in favour of potential hosts foraging on UV-supplemented tissues. This study demonstrates the potential for UV-B to elicit a variety of interactions between trophic levels, most likely mediated through effects upon host plant chemistry.

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