Researches on Population Ecology

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 63–71

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

  • Shuichi Yano
Original Paper


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.

Key words

ants autogamous plant flower nectar herbivorous insect indirect defense tritrophic levels 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bentley, B. L. (1977) Extrafloral nectaries and protection by pugnacious bodyguards.Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 8: 407–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Dicke, M. and M. W. Sabelis (1988) How plants obtain predatory mites as bodyguards.Neth. J. Zool. 38: 148–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dominguez, C. A., R. Dirzo and S. H. Bullock (1989) On the function of floral nectar inCroton suberosus (Euphorbiaceae)Oikos 56: 109–114.Google Scholar
  4. Gould, S. J. and E. S. Vrba (1982) Exaptation—a missing term in the science of form.Paleobiology 8: 4–15.Google Scholar
  5. Hairston, N. G., F. E. Smith and L. B. Slobodkin (1960) Community structure, population control, and competition.Amer. Nat. 94: 421–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Heinrich, B. and P. H. Raven (1972) Energetics and pollination ecology.Science 176: 597–602.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Huxley, C. R. (1986) Evolution of benevolent ant-plant relationships. pp. 257–282.In B. E. Juniper and T. R. E. Southwood (eds.)Insects and the plant surface. Arnold, London.Google Scholar
  8. Huxley, C. R. (1989) Ants and plants: a diversity of interactions. pp. 1–14.In C. R. Huxley and D. F. Cutler (eds.)Ant-plant interactions. Oxford, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Janzen, D. H. (1980) When is it coevolution?Evolution.34: 611–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kitamura, S. and G. Murata (1961)Coloured illustrations of Herbaceous Plants of Japan (Choripetalae). Hoikusha, Osaka. (in Japanese)Google Scholar
  11. Koptur, S. and J. H. Lawton (1988) Interactions among vetches bearing extrafloral nectaries, their biotic protective agents, and herbivores.Ecology 69: 278–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Mound, L. A. (1962) Extrafloral nectaries of cotton and their secretions.Emp. Cotton Grow. Rev. 39: 254–261.Google Scholar
  13. Muraoka, K. and M. Watanabe (1994) A preliminary study of nectar production of the field cress,Rorippa indica, in relation to the age of its flowers.Ecol. Res. 9: 33–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ojala, A. (1985) Variation ofAngelica archangelica subsp.rachangelica (Apiaceae) in northern Fennoscandia.Ann. Bot. Fennici. 22: 183–194.Google Scholar
  15. Ottosen, C. O. (1987) Male bumblebees (Bombs hortorum L.) as pollinators ofLonicera periclymenum L. in northeastern Zealand, Denmark.Flora (Jena)179: 155–161.Google Scholar
  16. Raju, A. J. S. (1989) Reproductive ecology ofOcimum americanum L. andO. bacilicum L. (Lamiaceae) in India.Plant Species Biol. 4: 107–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Schemske, D. W. (1983) Limits to specialization and coevolution in plant-animal mutualisms. pp. 67–109.In M. H. Nitecki (ed.)Coevolution. Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  18. Taylor, O. R. Jr. and D. W. Inouye (1985) Synchrony and periodicity of flowering inFrasera speciosa (Gentianaceae).Ecology 66: 521–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Tilman, D. (1978) Cherries, ants, and tent caterpillars: timing of nectar production in relation to susceptibility of caterpillar to ant predation.Ecology 59: 686–692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Yano, S. (1993) The plastic reproductive allocation of the cruciferous perennialRorippa indica in response to different degrees of feeding damage.Res. Popul. Ecol. 35: 349–359.Google Scholar
  21. Yano, S., and N. Ohsaki (1993) The phenology and intrinsic quality of wild crucifers that determine the community structure of their herbivorous insects.Res. Popul. Ecol. 35: 151–170.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Society of Population Ecology 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shuichi Yano
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Entomology, Faculty of AgricultureKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

Personalised recommendations