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Induced defences in plants reduce herbivory by increasing cannibalism

Nature Ecology & Evolutionvolume 1pages12051207 (2017) | Download Citation

Abstract

Plants are attacked by myriad herbivores, and many plants exhibit anti-herbivore defences. We tested the hypothesis that induced defences benefit tomato plants by encouraging insects to eat other members of their species. We found that defences that promote cannibalism benefit tomatoes in two ways: cannibalism directly reduces herbivore abundance, and cannibals eat significantly less plant material. This previously unknown means of defence may alter plant–herbivore dynamics, plant evolution and pathogen transmission.

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Acknowledgements

Comments from E. Preisser and E. Damschen greatly improved the manuscript. We appreciate artwork by B. Feeny. J.O. was hosted by the Department of Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) while writing the manuscript; VCU Biology, the Johnson, Vonesh and Damschen laboratories kindly shared space and equipment for conducting experiments.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Integrative Biology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, 53704, USA

    • John Orrock
    • , Brian Connolly
    •  & Anthony Kitchen

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Contributions

J.O. conceived the study; J.O. and B.C. designed the study; A.K.,  B.C. and J.O. conducted the experiments; J.O. performed all analyses and led manuscript preparation; B.C. and A.K. contributed to manuscript revision.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to John Orrock.

Electronic supplementary material

  1. Supplementary Materials

    Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Results, Supplementary References, Supplementary Figures 1–5

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0231-6