Short-term damage-induced increases in tobacco alkaloids protect plants
- Cite this article as:
- Baldwin, I.T. Oecologia (1988) 75: 367. doi:10.1007/BF00376939
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Leaf damage significantly increases the alkaloid content in undamaged leaves on damaged field-grown wild tobacco plants. Although field-grown pot-bound plants fail to exhibit the same damage-induced increase in alkaloid content, the ability to respond to leaf damage is restored 6 days after removing plants from their pots. Freshly hatched Manduca sexta larvae reared individually in the laboratory on the high-alkaloid foliage of damaged plants released from their pots gain less weight and eat less (57.2% and 45.7% of controls, respectively) than larvae fed low-alkaloid foliage from undamaged released plants. Moreover, larvae grow equally well on the foliage of damaged and undamaged pot-bound plants. The higher chlorophyll contents characteristic of damaged released plants did not negate the effects of the increased alkaloid contents on larval growth. Undamaged leaves from undamaged field-grown plants stem-fed nicotine solutions had elevated leaf nicotine and nornicotine contents. Larvae reared on these artificially induced leaves gain only 38.5% of the weight gained by larvae reared on low-alkaloid foliage. These results demonstrate that damage-induced increases in leaf alkaloids protect induced foliage from attack and are sufficient to explain the decreased growth of caterpillars on the foliage of damaged plants.