, Volume 75, Issue 3, pp 367–370

Short-term damage-induced increases in tobacco alkaloids protect plants

  • Ian T. Baldwin
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF00376939

Cite this article as:
Baldwin, I.T. Oecologia (1988) 75: 367. doi:10.1007/BF00376939


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.

Key words

Nicotiana sylvestris Nicotine Nornicotine Induced defense Plant-herbivore 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian T. Baldwin
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Neurobiology and BehaviorCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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