Evolutionary Ecology of Chemically Mediated Plant-Insect Interactions

  • Amy M. Trowbridge
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history


Approaches for testing macroevolutionary theories. Coevolution: understanding the diversity and role of plant secondary compounds. Costs associated with synthesis: trade-offs and defense theory. Plants are armed with an arsenal of chemical defenses against insects. Spatiotemporal patterns of plant defense chemistry: timing and location of synthesis can impact herbivory. Insect host preference and response to secondary compounds. Regulation of defense: plant perception of herbivory, signal transduction, and induced responses. Plant volatile-mediated defenses against herbivores.


Chemical defense Coevolution Detoxification Induced responses Plant secondary metabolites Resistance Sequestration Volatile organic compounds 


  1. Agrawal AA. Current trends in the evolutionary ecology of plant defence. Funct Ecol. 2011;25:420–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agrawal AA, Fishbein M. Plant defense syndromes. Ecology. 2006;87:S132–49.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barbosa P, Hines J, Kaplan I, et al. Associational resistance and associational susceptibility: having right or wrong neighbors. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst. 2009;40:1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barton KE, Koricheva J. The ontogeny of plant defense and herbivory: characterizing general patterns using meta-analysis. Am Nat. 2010;175:481–93.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bernays E, Chapman R. The evolution of deterrent responses in plant-feeding insects. In: Chapman RF et al., editors. Perspectives in chemoreception and behavior. New York: Springer; 1987. p. 159–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bernays E, Graham M. On the evolution of host specificity in phytophagous arthropods. Ecology. 1988;69:886–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bryant JP, Chapin III FS, Klein DR. Carbon/nutrient balance of boreal plants in relation to vertebrate herbivory. Oikos. 1983;40:357–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen M-S. Inducible direct plant defense against insect herbivores: a review. Insect Sci. 2008;15:101–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Coley PD, Bryant JP, Chapin III FS. Resource availability and plant antiherbivore defense. Science. 1985;230:895–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Després L, David J-P, Gallet C. The evolutionary ecology of insect resistance to plant chemicals. Trends Ecol Evol. 2007;22:298–307.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dethier VG. Evolution of feeding preferences in phytophagous insects. Evolution. 1954;8:33–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dicke M, Baldwin IT. The evolutionary context for herbivore-induced plant volatiles: beyond the “cry for help”. Trends in Plant Science. 2010;15:167–75.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ehrlich PR, Raven PH. Butterflies and plants: a study in coevolution. Evolution. 1964;18:586–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Feeny P. Plant apparency and chemical defense. In: Wallace JW, Mansell RL, editors. Biochemical interactions between plants and insects. New York: Springer; 1976. p. 1–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fraenkel GS. The raison d’etre of secondary plant substances. Science. 1959;129:1466–70.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Futuyma DJ, Keese MC. Evolution and coevolution of plants and phytophagous arthropods. In: Rosenthal GA, Berenbaum MR, editors. Herbivores: their interactions with secondary plant metabolites vol II: ecological and evolutionary processes. San Diego: Academic Press; 1992. p. 439–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gershenzon J, Fontana A, Burow M, et al. Mixtures of plant secondary metabolites: metabolic origins and ecological benefits. In: Iason GR, Dicke M, Hartley SE, editors. The ecology of plant secondary metabolites: from genes to global processes. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2012. p. 56–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Harborne JB. Introduction to ecological biochemistry. 4th ed. San Diego: Academic; 1997.Google Scholar
  19. Haukioja E. Induction of defenses in trees. Annu Rev Entomol. 1991;36:25–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Herms DA, Mattson WJ. The dilemma of plants: to grow or defend. Q Rev Biol. 1992;67:283–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Howe GA, Jander G. Plant immunity to insect herbivores. Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2008;59:41–66.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Janzen DH. Tropical blackwater rivers, animals, and mast fruiting by the Dipterocarpaceae. Biotropica. 1974;6:69–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jones CG, Firn RD. On the evolution of plant secondary chemical diversity. Philos Trans Biol Sci. 1991;333:273–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Karban R, Baldwin IT. Induced responses to herbivory. Chicago: Chicago University Press; 1997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kessler A, Baldwin IT. Plant responses to insect herbivory: the emerging molecular analysis. Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2002;53:299–328.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Koricheva J, Barton KE. Temporal changes in plant secondary metabolite production: patterns, causes, and consequences. In: Iason GR, Dicke M, Hartley SE, editors. The ecology of plant secondary metabolites: from genes to global processes. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2012. p. 34–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Loomis WE. Growth-differentiation balance vs. carbohydrate-nitrogen ratio. Proc Am Soc Hortic Sci. 1932;29:240–5.Google Scholar
  28. McKey D. Adaptive patterns in alkaloid physiology. Am Nat. 1974;108:305–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Moore B, DeGabriel JL. Integrating the effects of PSMs on vertebrate herbivores across spatial and temporal scales. In: Iason GR, Dicke M, Hartley SE, editors. The ecology of plant secondary metabolites: from genes to global processes. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2012. p. 226–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nishida R. Sequestration of defensive substances from plants by lepidoptera. Annu Rev Entomol. 2002;47:57–92.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Opitz SEW, Müller C. Plant chemistry and insect sequestration. Chemoecology. 2009;19:117–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rhoades DF. Evolution of plant chemical defense against herbivores. In: Rosenthal GA, Janzen DH, editors. Herbivores: their interaction with secondary plant metabolites. New York: Academic; 1979. p. 3–54.Google Scholar
  33. Schoonhoven LM, van Loon JJA, Dicke M. Insect-plant biology. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2005.Google Scholar
  34. Stamp N. Out of the quagmire of plant defense hypotheses. Q Rev Biol. 2003;78:23–55.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wu J, Baldwin IT. New insights into plant responses to the attack from insect herbivores. Annu Rev Genet. 2010;44:1–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Agrawal AA. Natural selection on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) by a community of specialized insect herbivores. Evolut Ecol Res. 2005;7:651–67.Google Scholar
  2. Agrawal AA, Lau JA, Hambäck PA. Community heterogeneity and the evolution of interactions between plants and insect herbivores. Q Rev Biol. 2006;81:349–76.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Agrawal AA, Conner JK, Rasmann S. Tradeoffs and negative correlations in evolutionary ecology. In: Bell M, Eanes W, Futuyma D, Levinton J, editors. Evolution after Darwin: the first 150 years. Sunderland: Sinauer Associates; 2010. p. 243–68.Google Scholar
  4. Arnason JT, Bernards M. Impact of constitutive plant natural products on herbivores and pathogens. Can J Zool. 2010;88:615–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ayres MP, Clausen TP, MacLean SEJ, et al. Diversity of structure and antiherbivore activity in condensed tannins. Ecology. 1997;78:1696–712.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bailey JK, Schweitzer JA, Rehill BJ, et al. Rapid shifts in the chemical composition of aspen forests: an introduced herbivore as an agent of natural selection. Biol Invasions. 2007;9:715–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berenbaum M. Toxicity of a furanocoumarin to armyworms: a case of biosynthetic escape from insect herbivores. Science. 1978;201:532–4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Berenbaum M. Patterns of furanocoumarin distribution and insect herbivory in the Umbelliferae: plant chemistry and community structure. Ecology. 1981;62:1254–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berenbaum M. Coumarins and caterpillars: a case for coevolution. Evolution. 1983;37:163–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berenbaum MC. The expected effect of a combination of agents: the general solution. J Theor Biol. 1985;114:413–31.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Berenbaum MR, Zangerl AR. Furanocoumarin metabolism in Papilio polyxenes: biochemistry, genetic variability, and ecological significance. Oecologia. 1993;95:370–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Berenbaum MR, Nitao JK, Zangerl AR. Adaptive significance of furanocoumarin diversity in Pastinaca sativa (Apiaceae). J Chem Ecol. 1991;17:207–15.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Berenbaum MR, Favret C, Schuler MA. On defining“key innovations” in an adaptive radiation: cytochrome P450s and papilionidae. Am Nat. 1996;148:S139–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bergvall UA, Rautio P, Kesti K, et al. Associational effects of plant defences in relation to within-and between-patch food choice by a mammalian herbivore: neighbour contrast susceptibility and defence. Oecologia. 2006;147:253–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bernasconi ML, Turlings TCJ, Ambrosetti L, et al. Herbivore-induced emissions of maize volatiles repel the corn leaf aphid, shape Rhopalosiphum maidis. Entomol Exp Appl. 1998;87:133–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bowers MD. The evolution of unpalatability and the cost of chemical defense in insects. In: Roitberg BD, Isman MG, editors. Insect chemical ecology: an evolutionary approach. New York: Chapman and Hall; 1992. p. 216–44.Google Scholar
  17. Castañeda LE, Figueroa CC, Fuentes-Contreras E, et al. Energetic costs of detoxification systems in herbivores feeding on chemically defended host plants: a correlational study in the grain aphid, Sitobion avenae. J Exp Biol. 2009;212:1185–90.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Close DC, McArthur C. Rethinking the role of many plant phenolics–protection from photodamage not herbivores? Oikos. 2002;99:166–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Coley PD. Herbivory and defensive characteristics of tree species in a lowland tropical forest. Ecol Monogr. 1983;53:209–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. De Moraes CM, Lewis WJ, Pare PW, et al. Herbivore-infested plants selectively attract parasitoids. Lett Nat. 1998;393:570–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. De Moraes CM, Mescher MC, Tumlinson JH. Caterpillar-induced nocturnal plant volatiles repel conspecific females. Nature. 2001;410:577–80.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Degenhardt J, Köllner TG, Gershenzon J. Monoterpene and sesquiterpene synthases and the origin of terpene skeletal diversity in plants. Phytochemistry. 2009;70:1621–37.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dicke M. Behavioural and community ecology of plants that cry for help. Plant Cell Environ. 2009;32:654–65.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dyer LA, Dodson CD, Stireman JO, et al. Synergistic effects of three Piper amides on generalist and specialist herbivores. J Chem Ecol. 2003;29:2499–514.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fatouros NE, van Loon JJA, Hordijk KA, et al. Herbivore-induced plant volatiles mediate in-flight host discrimination by parasitoids. J Chem Ecol. 2005;31:2033–47.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fine PVA, Mesones I, Coley PD. Herbivores promote habitat specialization by trees in Amazonian forests. Science. 2004;305:663–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fine PVA, Miller ZJ, Mesones I, et al. The growth-defense trade-off and habitat specialization by plants in Amazonian forests. Ecology. 2006;87:S150–62.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Futuyma DJ, Agrawal AA. Macroevolution and the biological diversity of plants and herbivores. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2009;106:18054–61.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Futuyma DJ, Mitter C. Insect-plant interactions: the evolution of component communities. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1996;351:1361–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gerber E, Hinz HL, Blossey B. Interaction of specialist root and shoot herbivores of Alliaria petiolata and their impact on plant performance and reproduction. Ecol Entomol. 2007;32:357–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gershenzon J, Dudareva N. The function of terpene natural products in the natural world. Nat Chem Biol. 2007;3:408–14.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gouinguené SP, Turlings TCJ. The effects of abiotic factors on induced volatile emissions in corn plants. Plant Physiol. 2002;129:1296–307.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hakes AS, Cronin JT. Environmental heterogeneity and spatiotemporal variability in plant defense traits. Oikos. 2011;120:452–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Halitschke R, Stenberg JA, Kessler D, et al. Shared signals -‘alarm calls’ from plants increase apparency to herbivores and their enemies in nature. Ecol Lett. 2008;11:24–34.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Hopkins RJ, van Dam NM, van Loon JJA. Role of glucosinolates in insect-plant relationships and multitrophic interactions. Annu Rev Entomol. 2009;54:57–83.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Huang T, Jander G, de Vos M. Non-protein amino acids in plant defense against insect herbivores: representative cases and opportunities for further functional analysis. Phytochemistry. 2011;72:1531–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ibrahim MA, Nissinen A, Holopainen JK. Response of Plutella xylostella and its parasitoid Cotesia plutellae to volatile compounds. J Chem Ecol. 2005;31:1969–84.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Irwin RE, Adler LS. Correlations among traits associated with herbivore resistance and pollination: implications for pollination and nectar robbing in a distylous plant. Am J Bot. 2006;93:64–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Janz N, Nylin S. The oscillation hypothesis of host-plant range and speciation. In: Tilmon KJ, editor. Specialization, speciation, and radiation: the evolutionary biology of herbivorous insects. Berkeley: University of California Press; 2008. p. 203–15.Google Scholar
  40. Johnson MTJ, Agrawal AA, Maron JL, Salminen J. Heritability, covariation and natural selection on 24 traits of common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) from a field experiment. J Evol Biol. 2009;22:1295–307.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kaplan I, Halitschke R, Kessler A, et al. Physiological integration of roots and shoots in plant defense strategies links above-and belowground herbivory. Ecol Lett. 2008;11:841–51.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kessler A, Baldwin IT. Defensive function of herbivore-induced plant volatile emissions in nature. Science. 2001;291:2141–4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Koornneef A, Pieterse CMJ. Cross talk in defense signaling. Plant Physiol. 2008;146:839–44.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Koricheva J. Interpreting phenotypic variation in plant allelochemistry: problems with the use of concentrations. Oecologia. 1999;119:467–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kostenko O, Bezemer TM. Intraspecific variation in plant size, secondary plant compounds, herbivory and parasitoid assemblages during secondary succession. Basic Appl Ecol. 2013;14:337–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kursar TA, Coley PD. Convergence in defense syndromes of young leaves in tropical rainforests. Biochem Syst Ecol. 2003;31:929–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kursar TA, Dexter KG, Lokvam J, et al. The evolution of antiherbivore defenses and their contribution to species coexistence in the tropical tree genus Inga. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2009;106:18073–8.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lerdau M, Gray D. Ecology and evolution of light-dependent and light-independent phytogenic volatile organic carbon. New Phytol. 2003;157:199–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lindroth R. Impacts of elevated atmospheric CO2 and O3 on forests: phytochemistry, trophic interactions, and ecosystem dynamics. J Chem Ecol. 2010;36:2–21.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Milchunas DG, Noy-Meir I. Grazing refuges, external avoidance of herbivory and plant diversity. Oikos. 2002;99:113–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pass GJ, Foley WJ. Plant secondary metabolites as mammalian feeding deterrents: separating the effects of the taste of salicin from its post-ingestive consequences in the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). J Comp Physiol B. 2000;170:185–92.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Peñuelas J, Llusià J. Plant VOC emissions: making use of the unavoidable. Trends Ecol Evol. 2004;19:402–4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pichersky E, Lewinsohn E. Convergent evolution in plant specialized metabolism. Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2011;62:549–66.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pieterse CMJ, Dicke M. Plant interactions with microbes and insects: from molecular mechanisms to ecology. Trends Plant Sci. 2007;12:564–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rausher MD. Co-evolution and plant resistance to natural enemies. Nature. 2001;411:857–64.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Schuler MA. P450s in plant–insect interactions. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Proteins and Proteomics. 2011;1814:36–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Smilanich AM, Vargas J, Dyer LA, Bowers MD. Effects of ingested secondary metabolites on the immune response of a polyphagous caterpillar Grammia incorrupta. J Chem Ecol. 2011;37(3):239–45.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stinchcombe JR, Rausher MD. Diffuse selection on resistance to deer herbivory in the ivyleaf morning glory, Ipomoea hederacea. Am Nat. 2001;158:376–88.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Theis N, Lerdau M. The evolution of function in plant secondary metabolites. Int J Plant Sci. 2003;164:S93–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tholl D. Terpene synthases and the regulation, diversity and biological roles of terpene metabolism. Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2006;9:297–304.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Thompson JN. Specific hypotheses on the geographic mosaic of coevolution. Am Nat. 1999;153:S1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tuomi J, Niemelä P, Chapin III FS, et al. Defensive responses of trees in relation to their carbon/nutrient balance. In: Mattson WJ, Levieux J, Bernard-Dagan C, editors. Mechanisms of woody plant defenses against insects. New York: Springer; 1988. p. 57–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Van Dam NM, Tytgat TOG, Kirkegaard JA. Root and shoot glucosinolates: a comparison of their diversity, function and interactions in natural and managed ecosystems. Phytochem Rev. 2009;8:171–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Venditti C, Meade A, Pagel M. Multiple routes to mammalian diversity. Nature. 2011;479:393–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wiggins NL, McArthur C, Davies NW, McLean S. Spatial scale of the patchiness of plant poisons: a critical influence on foraging efficiency. Ecology. 2006;87:2236–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wink M. Evolution of secondary metabolites from an ecological and molecular phylogenetic perspective. Phytochemistry. 2003;64:3–19.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Yuan JS, Himanen SJ, Holopainen JK, et al. Smelling global climate change: mitigation of function for plant volatile organic compounds. Trends Ecol Evol. 2009;24:323–31.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Zagrobelny M, Bak S, Rasmussen AV, et al. Cyanogenic glucosides and plant–insect interactions. Phytochemistry. 2004;65:293–306.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Zangerl AR, Rutledge CE. The probability of attack and patterns of constitutive and induced defense: a test of optimal defense theory. Am Nat. 1996;147:599–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Zarate SI, Kempema LA, Walling LL. Silverleaf whitefly induces salicylic acid defenses and suppresses effectual jasmonic acid defenses. Plant Physiol. 2007;143:866–75.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations