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J Chem Ecol. 2008 Mar;34(3):330-8. doi: 10.1007/s10886-008-9433-3. Epub 2008 Feb 6.

Experience-induced habituation and preference towards non-host plant odors in ovipositing females of a moth.

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  • 1Institute of Insect Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, 310029, China.


In phytophagous insects, experience can increase positive responses towards non-host plant extracts or induce oviposition on non-host plants, but the underlying chemical and behavioral mechanisms are poorly understood. By using the diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella, its host plant Chinese cabbage, and a non-host plant Chrysanthemum morifolium, as a model system, we observed the experience-altered olfactory responses of ovipositing females towards volatiles of the non-host plant, volatiles of pure chemicals (p-cymene and alpha-terpinene) found in the non-host plant, and volatiles of host plants treated with these chemicals. We assessed the experience-altered oviposition preference towards host plants treated with p-cymene. Naive females showed aversion to the odors of the non-host plant, the pure chemicals, and the pure chemical-treated host plants. In contrast, experienced females either became attracted by these non-host odors or were no longer repelled by these odors. Similarly, naive females laid a significantly lower proportion of eggs on pure chemical-treated host plants than on untreated host plants, but experienced females laid a similar or higher proportion of eggs on pure chemical-treated host plants compared to untreated host plants. Chemical analysis indicated that application of the non-host pure chemicals on Chinese cabbage induced emissions of volatiles by this host plant. We conclude that induced preference for previously repellent compounds is a major mechanism that leads to behavioral changes of this moth towards non-host plants or their extracts.

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