School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences Faculty Publications and Presentations

Trichomes mediate plant–herbivore interactions in two Cucurbitaceae species through pre- and post-ingestive ways

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Plant structural defenses such as trichomes exert a significant selection pressure on insect herbivores. However, whether variation in structural defense traits affects common herbivores in related plant species is less understood. Here, we examined the role of trichomes in plant–herbivore interactions in two commonly cultivated members in Cucurbitaceae: bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) and cucumber (Cucumis sativa). In common garden experiments when the two species were grown together, we observed that they differed in their attractiveness to four major herbivore species (Trichoplusia ni, Acalymma vittatum, Diaphania indica, and Anasa tristis) and, consequently, their feeding behavior. We found that L. siceraria consistently harbored less herbivores, and the two lepidopteran herbivores (T. ni and D. indica) were found to take significantly longer time to commence feeding on them, a primary mode of pre-ingestive defense function of trichomes. To tease apart structural and chemical modes of defenses, we first used scanning electron microscopy to identify, quantify, and measure trichome traits including their morphology and density. We found that C. sativa has significantly lower number of trichomes compared to L. siceraria, regardless of trichome type and leaf surface. We then used artificial diet enriched with trichomes as caterpillar food and found that trichomes from these two species differentially affected growth and development of T. ni showing cascading effects of trichomes. Taken together, we show that trichomes, independent of chemical defenses, are an effective pre- and post-ingestive defense strategy against herbivores with negative consequences for their feeding, growth, and development.


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Journal of Pest Science