Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Insects Drive Rapid Shifts in Plant Ecology and Evolution

Published: Monday, October 08, 2012
Last Updated: Monday, October 08, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Study of plant populations provides rare real-time data that demonstrate key predictions by Charles Darwin on the importance of ecology along with natural selection in shaping a species' evolution.

When insect pests were removed from experimental fields of evening primrose, a native wildflower, the plants evolved -- in just three to four generations -- to relax their defenses against pests and were also better able to compete for space and other resources against dandelions that unexpectedly thrived without insects.

"What was most surprising to us was how rapidly the plants evolved, and we did not expect the evolution of competitive ability in the plants," said Anurag Agrawal, a Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and lead author of the study published Oct. 5 in the journal Science.

In the study, which began in 2007, Agrawal, Amy Hastings, a research support specialist working in Agrawal's lab, and colleagues set up 16 identical plots that contained the same relative numbers of 18 unique genotypes (specific genetic make-ups) of native evening primrose (Oenethera biennis). During each growing season, half the plots were treated biweekly with an insecticide; the other half were controls.

The offspring of evening primrose are mostly clones of the parent due to self-pollination and other factors in primrose reproduction. This genetic stability allowed the researchers to track the frequencies of the 18 different genotypes in the plots over five generations.

In Ithaca, the evening primrose has three native moth pests that eat the plant's fruits and seeds; one species (Mompha brevivittella) was more than five times more prevalent at the site than the other two.

Between 2007 and 2011, the researchers found that the number of evening primrose plants decreased substantially in plots without insects when compared with control plots, but dandelions thrived and out-competed many of the genotypes of evening primrose, possibly by shadowing light needed for germination and early seedling survival.

"The plots where we took insects out had double the dandelions," Agrawal said. Dandelion pests included a specialist beetle and a generalist moth caterpillar that preferred dandelions over evening primroses.

Whereas the genetic structure of the evening primrose populations changed over time, the researchers found that only nine of the original 18 genotypes in significant numbers remained in both insect-suppressed plots and the controls.

Of the genotypes that remained in the plots without insects, the researchers found more plants with relaxed defenses. By 2010 and even more in 2011, there was a shift toward plants that flowered earlier. When insects are present, later-flowering plants do better due to the timing of insect development, where larvae tend to eat the fruits of early flowering plants. Also, over time, there was a shift toward primroses with lower amounts of insect-deterring chemicals in the fruits, suggesting that in the wild, selection had been strongest for defense against flower and fruit eating insects, such as M. brevivittella.

Finally, without insects, primroses were better able to compete against dandelions -- primrose genotypes that led to larger plants were favored when compared to the controls.

"The effects of insect pests can have immediate consequences for plant health and also sweeping consequences for evolution of entire communities," Agrawal said.

Agrawal and his colleagues intend to maintain the experimental evolution plots as a long-term living laboratory to decipher the complexities of ecology and evolution.

Co-authors included researchers from the University of Toronto, the University of Montana and the University of Turku, Finland.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 5,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

$1M NIH Grant to Refine PCR Based Cancer Test
Researchers at Cornell University, Weill Cornell Medicine, the University of California, San Francisco, and the Infectious Diseases Institute in Kampala, Uganda, recieve a four-year, $1 million grant to hone technology for a quick, in-the-field diagnosis of Kaposi's sarcoma — a cancer frequently related to HIV infections.
Friday, September 02, 2016
Vortex Ring Freezing Applications
Accidental lab discovery could aid cell delivery and cell-free protein production.
Monday, August 22, 2016
Measuring Chemistry on a Chip
Researchers developing chemical sensor chip for sample analysis in a lab or monitoring air and water quality in the field.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Key to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is in Your Gut, Not Head
Researchers report they have identified biological markers of the disease in gut bacteria and inflammatory microbial agents in the blood.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Pathogen Takes Control of Gypsy Moth Populations
A new fungal pathogen is killing gypsy moth caterpillars and crowding out communities of pathogens and parasites that previously destroyed these moth pests.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Eating Green Could be in Your Genes
Genetic variation uncovered that has evolved in populations that have historically favored vegetarian diets, such as in India, Africa and parts of East Asia.
Friday, April 01, 2016
$4.8M USAID Grant to Improve Food Security
To strengthen capacity to develop and disseminate genetically engineered eggplant in Bangladesh and the Philippines, the USAID has awarded Cornell a $4.8 million, three-year cooperative grant.
Friday, April 01, 2016
Proteins Seek, Attack, Destroy Tumor Cells in Bloodstream
Using white blood cells to ferry potent cancer-killing proteins through the bloodstream virtually eliminates metastatic prostate cancer in mice, Cornell researchers have confirmed.
Friday, January 15, 2016
Tumor-suppressing Gene Lends Insight to Cancer Treatment
Researchers have found that delicate replication process derails if a gene named PTEN has mutated or is absent.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Synthetic Immune Organ Produces Antibodies
Cornell engineers have created a functional, synthetic immune organ that produces antibodies and can be controlled in the lab, completely separate from a living organism.
Friday, June 12, 2015
On Planes, Savory Tomato Becomes Favored Flavor
Study shows the effect that airplane noise has on passengers' taste preferences.
Friday, May 15, 2015
$5.5M NSF Grant Aims to Improve Rice Crops with Genome Editing
Researchers to precisely target, cut, remove and replace DNA in a living cell to improve rice.
Friday, May 08, 2015
'Shield' Gives Tricky Proteins a New Identity
Solubilization of Integral Membrane Proteins with high Levels of Expression.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
DNA Safeguard May Be Key In Cancer Treatment
Cornell researchers have developed a new technique to understand the actions of key proteins required for cancer cells to proliferate.
Monday, March 09, 2015
A ‘STAR’ is Born: Engineers Devise Genetic 'On' Switch
A new “on” switch to control gene expression has been developed by Cornell scientists.
Tuesday, February 03, 2015
Scientific News
Mass Spec Technology Drives Innovation Across the Biopharma Workflow
With greater resolving power, analytical speed, and accuracy, new mass spectrometry technology and techniques are infiltrating the biopharmaceuticals workflow.
One Step Closer to Precision Medicine for Chronic Lung Disease Sufferers
A study led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and National Jewish Health, has provided evidence of links between SNPs and known COPD blood protein biomarkers.
Gene Regulation in Brain May Explain Repetitive Behaviors in Rett Syndrome Patients
The research could be a key step in developing treatments to eliminate symptoms that drastically impair the quality of life in Rett patients.
Heart Arrhythmia Caused by Mosaic of Mutant Cells
Researchers have solved the genetic mystery of an infant suffering from heart arrhythmia.
Iron Nanoparticles Make Immune Cells Attack Cancer
Researchers accidentally discover that nanoparticles invented for anemia treatment can trigger the immune system’s ability to destroy tumor cells.
Crispr Toolbox Expanded By Protein
Researchers have shown a newly discovered CRISPR protein has two distinct RNA cutting activities.
CES Score May Predict Response to Cancer Treatment
Researchers identify new type of biomarker that helps predict prognosis and response to several types of cancer treatment.
Uncovering Cancer’s ‘Invisibility Cloak’
Researchers discover cancer cell mechanism to become invisible to the body's immune system.
Genetic Impact of Endurance Training
Research has found that endurance training changes genetic activity in thousands of genes, giving rise to large number of altered RNA variants.
Treating Sepsis with Marine Mitochondria
Mitochondrial alternative oxidase from a marine animal combats bacterial sepsis.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,000+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!