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
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 2,400+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,700+ 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

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
Bacteria Be Gone!
New technology keeps bacteria from sticking to surfaces.
Monday, January 19, 2015
On the Environmental Trail of Food Pathogens
Learning where Listeria dwells can aid the search for other food pathogens.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Chemists Show That ALS is a Protein Aggregation Disease
Using a technique that illuminates subtle changes in individual proteins, chemistry researchers at Cornell have uncovered new insight into the underlying causes of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Genetics Used to Improve Plants for Bioenergy
An upcoming genetics investigation into the symbiotic association between soil fungi and feedstock plants for bioenergy production could lead to more efficient uptake of nutrients, which would help limit the need for expensive and polluting fertilizers.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Computer Model Reveals Cancer's Energy Source
Findings focused on the energy-making process in cancer cells known as the Warburg Effect.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
A New Player in Lipid Metabolism Discovered
Specially engineered mice gained no weight, and normal counterparts became obese on the same high-fat, obesity-inducing Western diet.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Ingested Nanoparticles May Damage Liver
Although nanoparticles in food, sunscreen and other everyday products have many benefits, researchers from Cornell are finding that at certain doses, the particles might cause human organ damage.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Foodborne Pathogen Detection Speeds Up Dramatically
Next-generation sequencing techniques allow rapidly identification of strains of salmonella, quickening responses to potential outbreaks.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Scientific News
RNAi Screening Trends
Understand current trends and learn which application areas are expected to gain in popularity over the next few years.
Researchers Find U.S. Breast Milk is Glyphosate Free
Washington State University scientists have found that glyphosate, the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, does not accumulate in mother’s breast milk.
Peering into the Vapors
Research suggests that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than previous studies have indicated.
New Technique for Mining Health-conferring Soy Compounds
A new procedure devised by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists to extract lunasin from soybean seeds could expedite further studies of this peptide for its cancer-fighting potential and other health benefits.
Long-sought Discovery Fills in Missing Details of Cell 'Switchboard'
A biomedical breakthrough reveals never-before-seen details of the human body’s cellular switchboard that regulates sensory and hormonal responses.
Tracking Breast Cancer Before it Grows
A team of scientists led by University of Saskatchewan researcher Saroj Kumar is using cutting-edge Canadian Light Source techniques to screen and treat breast cancer at its earliest changes.
Zebrafish Reveal Drugs that may Improve Bone Marrow Transplant
Compounds boost stem cell engraftment; could allow more matches for patients with cancer and blood diseases.
DNA Damage Seen in Patients Undergoing CT Scanning
Along with the burgeoning use of advanced medical imaging tests over the past decade have come rising public health concerns about possible links between low-dose radiation and cancer.
The Light of Fireflies for Medical Diagnostics
EPFL scientists have exploited the light of fireflies in a new method that detects biological molecules without the need for complex devices and high costs.
Rice Disease-Resistance Discovery Closes the Loop for Scientific Integrity
Researchers reveal how disease resistant rice detects and responds to bacterial infections.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

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
2,400+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!