Meredith Schuman Why and How Do Plants Emit Volatile Compounds When Defending Themselves Against Herbivores?
© Maximilian Dörrbecker
Max Planck Society
"The Max Planck Society is Germany's most successful research organization. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide. The more than 15,000 publications each year in internationally renowned scientific journals are proof of the outstanding research work conducted at Max Planck Institutes – and many of those articles are among the most-cited publications in the relevant field." (Source)
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
"The Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena investigates the role, diversity and characteristics of chemical signals which control the interactions between organisms and their environment. Scientists from the fields of ecology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, entomology, ethology, and insect physiology work closely together in the Institute in order to understand the complex system of chemical communication. Their research focuses on the co-evolution of plants and insects. The fact that plants usually spend their entire lives in one place forces them to use effective strategies to guarantee that their offspring are spread and also to protect themselves against pests and diseases. To this effect, plants have developed a wide range of chemical signalling compounds that enable them to optimise their adaptation to their respective environments. These so-called allelochemicals are used to, among other things, attract pollinators, fend off herbivores and pests, fight diseases and keep unwelcome competitors away. Plants also synthesise mixtures of many organic substances that have a deterrent or toxic effect on herbivores. As a countermeasure, insects that feed on plants adapt accordingly and, for their part, try to overcome plant defences." (Source)
Plants have at least two ways of defending themselves against herbivores. They can do so directly by producing toxins or compounds that are anti-digestive, or they can indirectly defend themselves by emitting volatile compounds that attract predators and parasitoids of the herbivores. MEREDITH SCHUMANN investigates these indirect defenses. As she explains in this video, there are both fast and slow components to herbivore-induced volatiles. Her research team has examined whether this timing aspect, having both fast and slow components, is important for effectively attracting predators. During their field studies, they observed that the different timing of volatiles allows plants to connect predator activity to herbivore activity even when the two are not active at the same time. Their results suggest new agricultural methods of defending crops against herbivores without using pesticides.
LT Video Publication DOI: https://doi.org/10.21036/LTPUB10579
Herbivore-Induced Volatile Blends with Both “Fast” and “Slow” Components Provide Robust Indirect Defense in Nature
- Youngsung Joo, Meredith C. Schuman, Jay K. Goldberg, Sang-Gyu Kim, Felipe Yon, Christoph Brütting and Ian T. Baldwin
- Functional Ecology
- Published in 2017
How Does Plant Chemical Diversity Contribute to Biodiversity at Higher Trophic Levels?
- Meredith C. Schuman, Nicole M. van Dam, Franziska Beran and W. Stanley Harpole
- Current Opinion in Insect Science
- Published in 2016