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Herbivory and Relative Growth Rates of Pieris rapae are Correlated with Host Constitutive Salicylic Acid and Flowering Time

Lariviere, Andrew, Limeri, Lisa B., Meindl, George A., Traw, M. Brian
Journal of chemical ecology 2015 v.41 no.4 pp. 350-359
Arabidopsis thaliana, Arabis, Barbarea vulgaris, Brassica nigra, Capsella bursa-pastoris, Cardamine, Draba, Lepidium campestre, Pieris rapae, Sinapis, Sisymbrium altissimum, butterflies, cabbage, flowering, habitats, herbivores, hosts, larvae, leaves, pathogens, pests, salicylic acid, spring, summer, New York
Treatment of plants with exogenous salicylic acid (SA) improves resistance to many bacterial pathogens, but can suppress resistance to insect herbivores. While plants vary naturally in constitutive SA, whether such differences are predictive of resistance to insect herbivores has not been studied previously. We examined the possible role of this endogenous SA in structuring the interactions between the cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae, and ten hosts in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Because P. rapae has multiple generations that utilize different hosts across the year, we included five spring-flowering mustards and five summer-flowering mustards that co-occur in ruderal habitats in upstate New York. Under common garden conditions, the spring flowering mustards (Capsella bursa-pastoris, Draba verna, Cardamine impatiens, Barbarea vulgaris, and Arabidopsis thaliana) were significantly more resistant to P. rapae, supporting 42 % less herbivory (P = 0.015) and 64 % lower relative growth rates (P = 0.007), relative to the summer flowering mustards (Sisymbrium altissimum, Brassica nigra, Sinapis arvense, Lepidium campestre, and Arabis canadensis). Leaf total constitutive SA explained significant variation in larval herbivory (R ² = 75.3 %, P = 0.007) and relative growth rates (R ² = 59.4 %, P = 0.043). The three species with the lowest levels of constitutive SA (Capsella bursa-pastoris, Draba verna, and Cardamine impatiens) were the most resistant to larvae. Barbarea vulgaris and Arabis canadensis were notable exceptions, exhibiting high SA concentrations and intermediate resistance to P. rapae. These results suggest a curvilinear relationship between leaf constitutive SA and the herbivory by P. rapae, and they provide some insight into the ecology and possible management of this economically important crop pest.