Ecology letters

A herbivore that manipulates plant defence.

PMID 21299823


Phytopathogens and herbivores induce plant defences. Whereas there is evidence that some pathogens suppress these defences by interfering with signalling pathways involved in the defence, such evidence is scarce for herbivores. We found that the invasive spider mite Tetranychus evansi suppresses the induction of the salicylic acid and jasmonic acid signalling routes involved in induced plant defences in tomato. This was reflected in the levels of inducible defence compounds, such as proteinase inhibitors, which in mite-infested plants were reduced to even lower levels than the constitutive levels in herbivore-free plants. Additionally, the spider mite suppressed the release of inducible volatiles, which are implicated in plant defence. Consequently, the mites performed much better on previously attacked plants than on non-attacked plants. These findings provide a new perspective on plant-herbivore interactions, plant protection and plant resistance to invasive species.