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

Predicting how Insects, Plants Interact

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Butterfly and moth larvae feeding on native plants will extend their diet to newly introduced non-native plants, but which ones?

Two UC Davis-affiliated ecologists have developed a novel method that predicts plant/herbivore interactions before the plants arrive.

The research, involving 900 butterfly and moth species and 459 non-native plants in Europe, may lead to better screening of potential invasive plants, risk assessment, and pest management strategies, said researchers Ian Pearse and Florian Altermatt.

"Despite the growing prevalence of non-native plants, there are few effective tools for predicting the fate of non-native plants or their impacts on native communities," they wrote in newly published research, "Predicting Novel Trophic Interactions in a Non-Native World," in Ecology Letters. "We demonstrated that novel interactions between herbivores and non-native plants can be predicted based on plant evolutionary relationships and properties in the native herbivore-plant food web."

"My work has asked why some non-native plants are attacked by native herbivores while others are not," said Pearse, who completed the research while studying for his doctorate degree in entomology at UC Davis. He teamed with Altermatt, then a UC Davis postdoctoral scholar with the UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Pearse is now a postdoctoral researcher in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Altermatt is with the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.

Altermatt, interested in long-term trends in moth populations, assembled what Pearse called "one of the most extensive food webs of moth-host plant interactions, which covers a large part of Germany."

"We noticed that many non-native plants were included as hosts of native moths in that food web," Pearse said, "and we thought that we could use some of the ideas that I had been working on to explain which moths have started to eat which non-native plants."

"Herbivores, by in large, are not very adventurous in what they eat," Pearse said. "So, when a non-native plant enters their habitat, they tend to colonize those that are similar to the ones that they already eat. Plant evolutionary relationships are one of the best ways of looking at similarity between plants."

They successfully predicted the majority of novel interactions between herbivores and non-native plants. "When non-native plants enter a new ecosystem, their success and effects are mostly unpredictable," Pearse said. "However, we showed that one very predictable aspect of a non-native plant is which native herbivores can colonize it."

For instance, the larvae of the cinnabar moth (family Tyriajacobaeae), are a biocontrol agent of ragworts (Senecio), a native of Europe, but they also will colonize other plants. A geometrid moth, Eupithecia virganreata feeds on various ragworts but over the last decades, has extended its diet to invasive goldenrods (Solidago canadensis and S. gigantea).

On the basis of interactions between native hosts and insects, the researchers found "specific diet extensions of potential European pest insects to plants of forestry or agricultural interest introduced from North America, as well as the diet extension of European insects onto non-native plants that are of invasive concern."

"The goal of this approach is to correctly identify specific important interactions between a novel plant and native herbivore with the lowest possible false-positive rate, where a null model would result in a 50 percent false-positive rate," they wrote. "For example, we predicted that the tussock moth (Calliteara pudibunda) colonizes red oak (Quercus rubra; a common introduced tree throughout Europe) with a false-positive rate of only 0.7 percent. The tussock moth is an herbivorous insect of forestry concerns, having mass-outbreaks, and it is thus critical to understand its diet extension to novel host plants. Similarly, we predicted that the specialist Sessiid moth Synanthedon tipuliformis colonizes Ribes aureum, a cultivated gooseberry introduced from North America, with a false-positive rate of only 2.0 percent. S. tipuliformis is known to cause damage in agricultural gooseberry plantations, and an accurate prediction of host switch to introduced agricultural gooseberries is thus economically important."

Pearse received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 2011, studying with major professor Rick Karban. Pearse's current research at Cornell "is trying to understand masting in oak trees; that is, why and how trees produce very large seed sets in some years but small ones in others."

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 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ 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 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

RNA-Based Drugs Give More Control Over Gene Editing
CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique can be transiently activated and inactivated using RNA-based drugs, giving researchers more precise control in correcting and inactivating genes.
Monday, November 23, 2015
Some 3-D Printed Objects Are Toxic
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have found parts produced by some commercial 3-D printers are toxic to certain fish embryos.
Monday, November 09, 2015
Artificial Kidney Research Gets A Boost
Development of a surgically implantable, artificial kidney — a promising alternative to kidney transplantation or dialysis for people with end-stage kidney disease — has received a $6 million boost.
Monday, November 09, 2015
Clearest Ever Images of Enzyme that Plays Key Roles in Aging, Cancer
UCLA-led research on telomerase could lead to new strategies for treating disease
Monday, October 19, 2015
Crop Cure
Scientists in new center to use medical research techniques to help food crops withstand drought and climate change.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Rare Childhood Leukemia Reveals Surprising Genetic Secrets
A coalition of leukemia researchers led by scientists from UC San Francisco has discovered surprising genetic diversity in juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML), a rare but aggressive childhood blood cancer.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Sustaining Our Salad
Improving lettuce crops is the aim of a new, $4.5 million grant, awarded to University of California, Davis, researchers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Double Enzyme Hit May Explain Common Cancer Drug Side Effect
Mouse study suggests genomic screening before treatment may help prevent anemia.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
New Autism Genes Are Revealed in Largest-Ever Study
Work draws more detailed picture of genetic risk, sheds light on sex differences in diagnosis.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Influenza A Viruses More Likely To Emerge In East Asia Than North America
Novel strains of influenza A are more likely to emerge in East Asia than in North America, according to a global analysis by the One Health Institute at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and EcoHealth Alliance.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Opening the Door to Safer, More Precise Cancer Therapies
New method regulates when, and how strongly, cancer-killing therapeutic T cells are activated.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Crunching Numbers to Combat Cancer
UCSF receives $5 million to integrate data from cancer research models.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Virus In Cattle Linked To Human Breast Cancer
A new study by UC Berkeley researchers establishes for the first time a link between infection with the bovine leukemia virus and human breast cancer.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Ultrafast DNA Diagnostics
New technology developed by UC Berkeley bioengineers promises to make a workhorse lab tool cheaper, more portable and many times faster by accelerating the heating and cooling of genetic samples with the switch of a light.
Monday, August 03, 2015
Scientists Create CRISPR/Cas9 Knock-In Mutations in Human T Cells
In a project spearheaded by investigators at UC San Francisco, scientists have devised a new strategy to precisely modify human T cells using the genome-editing system known as CRISPR/Cas9.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
New Analysis Technique for Chiral Activity in Molecules
Professor Hyunwoo Kim of the Chemistry Department and his research team have developed a technique that can easily analyze the optical activity of charged compounds by using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.
Measuring microRNAs in Blood to Speed Cancer Detection
A simple, ultrasensitive microRNA sensor holds promise for the design of new diagnostic strategies and, potentially, for the prognosis and treatment of pancreatic and other cancers.
Best Test to Diagnose Strangles in Horses Identified
New research by Dr. Ashley Boyle of New Bolton Center’s Equine Field Service team shows that the best method for diagnosing Strangles in horses is to take samples from a horse’s guttural pouch and analyze them using a loop-mediated amplification (LAMP) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
Tardigrade's Are DNA Master Thieves
Tardigrades, nearly microscopic animals that can survive the harshest of environments, including outer space, hold the record for the animal that has the most foreign DNA.
Lucentis Effective for Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
NIH-funded clinical trial marks first major advance in therapy in 40 years.
Antibiotics on Our Plates 'Could Lead to Health Catastrophe'
Two medical experts from The University of Queensland are urging China to curb its use of antibiotics in animals to avoid what could be a ‘major health catastrophe’ for humans.
The Secret Behind the Power of Bacterial Sex
Migration between different communities of bacteria is the key to the type of gene transfer that can lead to the spread of traits such as antibiotic resistance, according to researchers at Oxford University.
Farming’s in Their DNA
Ancient genomes reveal natural selection in action.
Personalized Drug Screening for Multiple Myeloma Patients
A personalized method for testing the effectiveness of drugs that treat multiple myeloma may predict quickly and more accurately the best treatments for individual patients with the bone marrow cancer.
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
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos