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PLoS One. 2016 Dec 28;11(12):e0169142. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169142. eCollection 2016.

Natal Host Plants Can Alter Herbivore Competition.

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Department of Entomology, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, China, Key Laboratory of Bio-Pesticide Innovation and Application, Engineering Technology Research Center of Agricultural Pest Biocontrol of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou, China.
Department of Plant Protection, Institute of Vegetables and Flowers, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China.
Biological Sciences Department, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island, United States of America.


Interspecific competition between herbivores is widely recognized as an important determinant of community structure. Although researchers have identified a number of factors capable of altering competitive interactions, few studies have addressed the influence of neighboring plant species. If adaptation to/ epigenetic effects of an herbivore's natal host plant alter its performance on other host plants, then interspecific herbivore interactions may play out differently in heterogeneous and homogenous plant communities. We tested wether the natal host plant of a whitefly population affected interactions between the Middle-east Asia Minor 1 (MEAM1) and Mediterranean (MED) cryptic species of the whitefly Bemisia tabaci by rearing the offspring of a cabbage-derived MEAM1 population and a poinsettia-derived MED population together on three different host plants: cotton, poinsettia, and cabbage. We found that MED dominated on poinsettia and that MEAM1 dominated on cabbage, results consistent with previous research. MED also dominated when reared with MEAM1 on cotton, however, a result at odds with multiple otherwise-similar studies that reared both species on the same natal plant. Our work provides evidence that natal plants affect competitive interactions on another plant species, and highlights the potential importance of neighboring plant species on herbivore community composition in agricultral systems.

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