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Consequences of constitutive and induced variation in the host’s food plant quality for parasitoid larval development

Bukovinszky, Tibor, Gols, Rieta, Smid, Hans M., Bukovinszkiné Kiss, Gabriella, Dicke, Marcel, Harvey, Jeffrey A.
Journal of insect physiology 2012 v.58 no.3 pp. 367-375
Brassica oleracea var. oleracea, Brussels sprouts, Diadegma semiclausum, Plutella xylostella, food plants, larval development, nutritive value, parasitic wasps
Constitutive and induced changes in plant quality impact higher trophic levels, such as the development of parasitoids, in different ways. An efficient way to study how plant quality affects parasitoids is to examine how the parasitoid larva is integrated within the host during the growth process. In two experiments, we investigated the effects of varying nutritional quality of Brassica oleracea on parasitoid larval development inside the host, the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella). First, we compared larval growth of the specialist Diadegma semiclausum and the generalist Diadegma fenestrale, when the host was feeding on Brussels sprout plants that were either undamaged or were previously induced by caterpillar damage. Larvae of the generalist D. fenestrale showed lower growth rates than larvae of the specialist D. semiclausum, and this difference was more pronounced on herbivore-induced plants, suggesting differences in host-use efficiency between parasitoid species. The growth of D. semiclausum larvae was also analyzed in relation to herbivore induction on Brussels sprouts and on a wild B. oleracea strain. Parasitoid growth was more depressed on induced than on undamaged control plants, and more on wild cabbage than on Brussels sprouts, which was largely explained by differences in host mass. The effects of induction of wild Brassica on parasitoid development were pronounced early on, but as P. xylostella feeding began inducing the previously undamaged control plants, the effect of induction disappeared, revealing a temporal component of plant–parasitoid interactions. This study demonstrates how insights into the physiological aspects of host–parasitoid interactions can improve our understanding of the effects of plant-related traits on parasitoid wasps.