Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 10, pp 2285–2304 | Cite as

Polymorphism in Plant Defense Against Herbivory: Constitutive and Induced Resistance in Cucumis sativus

  • Anurag A. Agrawal
  • Piotr M. Gorski
  • Douglas W. Tallamy


Theory predicts that plant resistance to herbivores is determined by both genetic and environmentally induced components. In this study, we demonstrate that the phenotypic expression of plant resistance to spider mite herbivory in Cucumis sativus is determined by genetic and environmental factors and that there is an interaction between these factors. Previous feeding by spider mites induced systemic resistance to subsequent attack over several spatial scales within plants, reducing the population growth of mites compared to that on control plants. Effects of induction were effective locally over the short term, but resulted in local increased susceptibility to spider mite attack after several days. However, this local induced susceptibility on the damaged leaf was associated with induced resistance on newer leaves. Induced resistance was correlated with increases in cucurbitacin content of leaves, but was not associated with changes in the density of leaf trichomes. Induced resistance to herbivory was not detected in plants of a genotype lacking constitutive expression of cucurbitacins, which were in general highly susceptibile to mite attack. Allocation trade-offs between growth and defense are often invoked to explain the maintenance of variation in the levels of plant resistance. Contrary to current thinking, neither constitutive nor herbivore-induced plant resistance were associated with reductions in plant allocation to root and shoot growth. However, plants that had high levels of induced resistance to spider mites were the most susceptible to attack by a specialist beetle. Such ecological trade-offs between resistance to generalist herbivores and susceptibility to specialist herbivores may be important in the maintenance of variation of plant resistance traits. In summary, C. sativus exhibits strong genetic variation for constitutive and induced resistance to spider mites, and this variation in resistance is associated with ecological trade-offs.

Cucumber Cucumis cucurbitacins defense theory Diabrotica herbivory induced responses plant-insect interactions plant resistance spider mites Tetranychus 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anurag A. Agrawal
    • 1
  • Piotr M. Gorski
    • 2
  • Douglas W. Tallamy
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Population Biology, Department of EntomologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavis
  2. 2.Department of Entomology and Applied Ecology, Delaware Agricultural Experiment StationCollege of Agricultural Sciences, University of DelawareNewark Delaware

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