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Vol. 165, No: 2, 2011, Pages: 427 - 36

Induced chemical defenses in a freshwater macrophyte suppress herbivore fitness and the growth of associated microbes

Morrison WE, Hay ME

School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA.


The freshwater macrophyte Cabomba caroliniana induces a chemical defense when attacked by either the crayfish Procambrus clarkii or the snail Pomacea canaliculata. Induction by either consumer lowers the palatability of the plant to both consumers. When offered food ad libitum, snails feeding on non-induced C. caroliniana grew 2.6-2.7 times more than those feeding on induced C. caroliniana. Because snails fed less on induced plants, this could be a behavioral effect (reduced feeding), a physiological effect of the induced metabolites on the consumer, or both. To assess these possibilities, we made artificial diets with lipid extracts of induced versus non-induced C. caroliniana and restricted control snails to consuming only as much as treatment snails consumed. Growth measured as shell diameter was significantly lower on the diet containing extract from induced, as opposed to non-induced, plants; change in snail mass was more variable and showed a similar, but non-significant, trend. Thus, snails may reduce feeding on induced plants to avoid suppression of fitness. The induced defenses also suppressed growth of co-occurring microbes that might attack the plant through herbivore-generated feeding scars. When two bacteria and three fungi isolated from C. caroliniana surfaces were cultured with the lipid extract from induced and non-induced C. caroliniana, both extracts inhibited the microbes, but the induced extract was more potent against three of the five potential pathogens. Thus, induced plant defenses can act against both direct consumers and microbes that might invade the plant indirectly through herbivore-generated wounds.

Keywords:Cabomba caroliniana induces a chemical defense,Procambrus clarkii,Pomacea canaliculata,Cabomba caroliniana.


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