Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Eat Up All Of Your Brussels Sprouts -- Unless You're An Aphid

Date:
February 11, 2008
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
Aphids that eat Brussels sprouts are smaller than normal and live in undersized populations, which has a negative knock-on effect up the food chain according to new research in Science. The study shows for the first time that the nutritional quality of plant food sources for herbivores has a far-reaching impact on an ecosystem as a whole, potentially impeding important functions that the ecosystem performs, such as the natural predation and control of agricultural pests.

Aphids that eat Brussels sprouts are smaller than normal and live in undersized populations, which has a negative knock-on effect up the food chain according to new research.

The study shows for the first time that the nutritional quality of plant food sources for herbivores has a far-reaching impact on an ecosystem as a whole, potentially impeding important functions that the ecosystem performs, such as the natural predation and control of agricultural pests.

The scientists compared aphids living on sprouts to aphids living on wild cabbages in a field experiment which took place on a farm in the Netherlands. They could see that the sprouts were of a lower nutritional value for aphids than the cabbages, because the aphids feeding on them were smaller in size, and the number of aphids living on them was fewer.

They then traced the effects up through the food chain to discover that the implications of poor nutritional quality in plants spread throughout the extended network of feeding relationships in an ecosystem known as a food web. This means that the sprouts affect not only the herbivore aphids that eat them, but also the primary parasitoid wasp predators that mummify and eat the aphids, and the secondary parasitoid wasps that in turn eat the primary parasitoid wasps.

The scientific team made this discovery by analysing the food webs associated with both types of plants. They found that food webs based on sprout-eating aphids are less complex and involve a less diverse network of predators than those food webs based on higher quality plants like wild cabbage.

This is because larger, cabbage-eating aphids produce larger primary parasitoid predators, which in turn attract more of the opportunistic generalist feeders among the secondary parasitoids, leading to a greater diversity of species and complexity in the ecosystem. This shows that plant quality indirectly influences the foraging decisions taken by individuals higher up the food chain which ultimately determines the structure of the food web.

One of the paper's authors, Dr Frank Van Veen from Imperial College London's NERC Centre for Population Biology, explains why this is important: "The diversity and complexity of food webs have long been seen as good indicators of how well an ecosystem is functioning, and how stable it is, but until now we had very little idea of the processes that determine diversity and complexity. Our study has shown that changing just one element, in this case plant quality, leads to a cascade of effects that impact on predators across the food web.

"If we are to predict how environmental change is going to affect ecosystems and the functions they perform, an important part of the puzzle is to understand the mechanisms by which an effect on one species propagates through the complex network of interacting species that make up an ecosystem."

Dr Van Veen adds that their research has no implications for human sprout consumption: "Our aphid study certainly does not mean sprouts aren't good for humans to eat - our nutritional requirements differ enormously from those of insects."

This research was published February 8 in Science.

The research was jointly led by scientists at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and Imperial College London, and was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the UK Natural Environment Research Council.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "Eat Up All Of Your Brussels Sprouts -- Unless You're An Aphid." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080207140755.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2008, February 11). Eat Up All Of Your Brussels Sprouts -- Unless You're An Aphid. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080207140755.htm
Imperial College London. "Eat Up All Of Your Brussels Sprouts -- Unless You're An Aphid." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080207140755.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) The United Nations says water is a human right, but should it be free? Detroit has cut off water to residents who can't pay, and the U.N. isn't happy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Suni, a rare northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, died Friday. This, as many media have pointed out, leaves people fearing extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins