Crop Biotech Update

Plant Eating Insects Affect the Evolution of Plants, Research Finds

October 10, 2012

A research study by scientists from England's Rothamsted Research, in collaboration with the University of Zürich, University of Copenhagen, University of California Davis and Cornell University have found out that plants naturally evolve to protect themselves from insect attack. This evolution however cost them to downgrade their ability to compete with other plants in terms of acquiring nutrients.

The team particularly probed the natural populations of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana in Europe. They compared the geographic variation in the profiles of glucosinolates (a group of chemical compounds that plants can use to protect themselves) in the plants with the abundance of two specialist aphids from 39 years of field data collected through the Rothamsted Research Insect Survey.

They found that plant eating insects may force the rapid evolution of plants through natural selection, with genes resistant to insect attack being favored. But in areas where the probability of plant eating insects damage is lower these genes do not appear to be favored. These authors argue that this finding "highlights the potency of natural enemies as selective forces".

View Rothamsted's news release at http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/PressReleases.php?PRID=196.