Brassica nigra plants accelerate seed production when butterflies drop their eggs on the leaves of the plant. In this way the plants effectively defend themselves against the herbivores, state Wageningen entomologists this week in Functional Ecology.
‘We found a new strategy for how plants defend themselves against attackers,’ says research supervisor Joop van Loon. By what means the plants translate leaf surface contact with herbivore eggs to speeding up seed development, is still unknown. Swiss entomologists who collaborate with the Wageningen research group, have found enhanced gene expression of genes in the related plant Arabidopsis thaliana when the plants come into contact with caterpillar’s eggs. ‘Perhaps the information route runs through the vascular system of the plant, or perhaps volatiles give signals that speed up seed production’, says Van Loon.