, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 63-71

Flower nectar of an autogamous perennialRorippa indica as an indirect defense mechanism against herbivorous insects

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Abstract

This report shows that one of the most important roles of the flower nectar of an autogamous perennialRorippa indica (L.) Hieron is as an attractant for employing some ant species as a defense against herbivorous insects. The plant has flowers from spring to early winter. Its flower nectar is frequently stolen by some ant species (hereafter cited as ants) which also feed on small herbivorous insects on the plant. Internations among the tritrophic levels (R. indica, herbivores, ants) were experimentally examined and the followings became clear. (1) Ants were attracted toR. indica in search of its flower nectar. (2) The gradual secretion of flower nectar seemed to detain ants on the plant. (3)Pieris butterfly lavae were the major herbivores onR. indica and were potentially harmful to the plant. (4) The presence of ants reduced the survival rate ofP. rapae larvae onR. indica. (5) The presence of ants reduced the feeding damage toR. indica. (6) The disadvantage of nectar use by ants seemed to be minimal for the plant since the ants did not disturb the other flower visitors. These facts suggest a mutualistic relationship betweenR. indica and ants. That is, the flower nectar serves as an indirect defense against herbivorous insects.