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Complex Odor from Plants under Attack: Herbivore's Enemies React to the Whole, Not Its Parts

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021742
  • Research Article
  • Agriculture
  • Agricultural Biotechnology
  • Genetically Modified Organisms
  • Agroecology
  • Agro-Population Ecology
  • Ecosystems Agroecology
  • Pest Control
  • Integrated Control
  • Biology
  • Biotechnology
  • Plant Biotechnology
  • Ecology
  • Behavioral Ecology
  • Chemical Ecology
  • Community Ecology
  • Ecophysiology
  • Evolutionary Ecology
  • Physiological Ecology
  • Plant Ecology
  • Population Ecology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Animal Behavior
  • Neuroscience
  • Sensory Systems
  • Olfactory System
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Learning And Memory
  • Neuroethology
  • Sensory Perception
  • Plant Science
  • Plant Biochemistry
  • Plant Evolution
  • Plant Physiology
  • Population Biology


Background Insect herbivory induces plant odors that attract herbivores' natural enemies. Assuming this attraction emerges from individual compounds, genetic control over odor emission of crops may provide a rationale for manipulating the distribution of predators used for pest control. However, studies on odor perception in vertebrates and invertebrates suggest that olfactory information processing of mixtures results in odor percepts that are a synthetic whole and not a set of components that could function as recognizable individual attractants. Here, we ask if predators respond to herbivore-induced attractants in odor mixtures or to odor mixture as a whole. Methodology/Principal Findings We studied a system consisting of Lima bean, the herbivorous mite Tetranychus urticae and the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis. We found that four herbivore-induced bean volatiles are not attractive in pure form while a fifth, methyl salicylate (MeSA), is. Several reduced mixtures deficient in one component compared to the full spider-mite induced blend were not attractive despite the presence of MeSA indicating that the predators cannot detect this component in these odor mixtures. A mixture of all five HIPV is most attractive, when offered together with the non-induced odor of Lima bean. Odors that elicit no response in their pure form were essential components of the attractive mixture. Conclusions/Significance We conclude that the predatory mites perceive odors as a synthetic whole and that the hypothesis that predatory mites recognize attractive HIPV in odor mixtures is unsupported.

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