Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sex Involved In Plant Defense

Date:
July 15, 2009
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Why do some plants defend themselves from insect attacks better than others? New evidence shows that the difference might be due to whether they're getting any 'plant love.' Scientists discovered that sexually produced evening primrose plants withstand attacks from plant-eaters like caterpillars better than plant relatives that reproduce by themselves.

Evening primrose. Sexually produced evening primrose plants withstand attacks from plant-eaters like caterpillars better than plant relatives that reproduce by themselves.
Credit: iStockphoto/Sergey Chushkin

Why do some plants defend themselves from insect attacks better than others? New evidence shows that the difference might be due to whether they're getting any plant love.

In research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists from North Carolina State University and Duke University discovered that sexually produced evening primrose plants withstand attacks from plant-eaters like caterpillars better than plant relatives that reproduce by themselves.

The findings are important steps to learning more about how plants have evolved defenses against insect herbivores, says Dr. Marc Johnson, assistant professor of plant biology at NC State and the lead author of the research paper.

"The variation in sexual reproduction has a large impact on the ability of plants to evolve defenses against herbivores," Johnson says.

In the study, the researchers performed both lab and field experiments on evening primrose (Onagraceae) plants, a plant family that has 259 different species – 85 percent of which reproduce sexually with the remainder reproducing asexually – to gauge the effects of plant sex on defense mechanisms. The researchers found that so-called generalist herbivores – those that eat a variety of plants – preferred to feed on the asexual species and lived longer while doing so.

The results were a bit different for so-called "specialist" plant-eaters, however. Those insects that prefer just one kind of food were more apt to munch on sexually reproduced species of plant. This most likely occurs, Johnson says, because specialized plant-eaters evolve alongside their hosts and have found ways to co-opt plant defenses. Instead of being deterred by certain chemical compounds produced as defenses by the plant, the specialized plant-eaters are attracted to them.

Johnson says the nuanced results make sense.

"Sex shuffles up genes and allows individual plants to get rid of bad genes and keep good ones," he said. "That helps them evolve defenses against generalist herbivores. Though there are short-term benefits to asexual reproduction – populations can grow more rapidly and propagate even when pollination is not possible – losing sex puts plants at a long-term disadvantage.

The research was funded by NC State, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the National Science Foundation, Duke University and the National Institutes of Health. Johnson's co-authors from Duke University are Dr. Mark D. Rausher, professor of biology, and Dr. Stacey D. Smith, a post-doctoral researcher in biology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Plant Sex and the Evolution of Plant Defenses Against Herbivores. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 13, 2009

Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Sex Involved In Plant Defense." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090713201448.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2009, July 15). Sex Involved In Plant Defense. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090713201448.htm
North Carolina State University. "Sex Involved In Plant Defense." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090713201448.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) — South Koreans eat more instant ramen noodles per capita than anywhere else in the world. But American researchers say eating too much may increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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