Video: Plant defenses turn caterpillar pests into cannibals


If you’re a hungry caterpillar and you’ve got a choice between eating a plant or another caterpillar, which do you chose?

You pick your fellow caterpillar, scientists have found — if the plant is noxious enough.

In a study published … in Nature Ecology and Evolution, scientists sprayed tomato plants with a substance that induces a defensive response — a suite of nasty chemicals — and found that caterpillars became cannibals instead of eating the plant.

“The plant rearranges the menu for the caterpillar and makes other caterpillars the optimal choice,” said John Orrock, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Wisconsin — Madison who led the study.

His team’s findings support a growing body of research suggesting that plant defenses are far more sophisticated than we’ve thought. Plants can’t run or hide, but they possess powerful strategies capable of altering the minds of herbivores that try to eat them.

[Richard Karban, an ecologist who studies the interactions between plants and herbivores at the University of California, Davis and was not involved in the study] said he thinks better understanding of these interactions could one day make us less dependent on pesticides….

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: The Very Hungry Caterpillars That Turned to Cannibalism