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J Chem Ecol. 2013 Jan;39(1):76-89. doi: 10.1007/s10886-012-0228-1. Epub 2012 Dec 30.

Species-specific effects of herbivory on the oviposition behavior of the moth Manduca sexta.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Arizona, 1040 E. Fourth St., Gould-Simpson 611, Tucson, AZ 85721-0077, USA.


In Southwestern USA, the jimsonweed Datura wrightii and the nocturnal sphinx moth Manduca sexta form a pollinator-plant and herbivore-plant association. While certain plant volatile organic compounds (VOCs) attract moths for oviposition, it is likely that other host-derived olfactory cues, such as herbivore-induced VOCs, repel moths for oviposition. Here, we studied the oviposition preference of female M. sexta towards intact and damaged host plants of three species: D. wrightii, D. discolor (a less preferred feeding resource but also used by females for oviposition), and Solanum lycopersicum-tomato-(used by moths as an oviposition resource only). Damage was inflicted to the plants either by larval feeding or artificial damage. Mated females were exposed to an intact plant and a damaged plant and allowed to lay eggs for 10 min. Oviposition preferences of females were highly heterogeneous in all cases, but a larger proportion of moths laid significantly fewer eggs on feeding-damaged and artificially damaged plants of S. lycopersicum. Many females also avoided feeding-damaged D. discolor and D. wrightii plants induced by treatment with methyl jasmonate. Chemical analyses showed a significant increase in the total amount of VOCs released by vegetative tissues of feeding-damaged plants, as well as species-specific increases in emission of certain VOCs. In particular, feeding-damaged S. lycopersicum plants emitted (-)-linalool, an odorant that repels moths for oviposition. Finally, the emission of D. wrightii floral VOCs, which are important in mediating feeding by adult moths (and hence pollination), did not change in plants damaged by larval feeding. We propose that the observed differential effects of herbivory on oviposition choice are due to different characteristics (i.e., mutually beneficial or parasitic) of the insect-plant interaction.

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