Antennal electrophysiological responses of three parasitic wasps to caterpillar-induced volatiles from maize (Zea mays mays), cotton (Gossypium herbaceum), and cowpea (Vigna unguiculata)
2005, Gouinguene, Sandrine, Pickett, John A, Wadhams, Lester J., Birkett, Michael A, Turlings, Ted
Many parasitic wasps are attracted to volatiles that are released by plants when attacked by potential hosts. The attractiveness of these semiochernicals from damaged plants has been demonstrated in many tritrophic systems, but the physiological mechanisms underlying the insect responses are poorly understood. We recorded the antennal perception by three parasitoids (Cotesia marginiventris, Microplitis rufiventris, and Campoletis sonorensis) to volatiles emitted by maize, cowpea, and cotton plants after attack by the common caterpillar pest Spodoptera littoralis. Gas chromatography-electroantennography (GC-EAG) recordings showed that wasps responded to many, but not all, of the compounds present at the physiologically relevant levels tested. Interestingly, some minor compounds, still unidentified, elicited strong responses from the wasps. These results indicate that wasps are able to detect many odorant compounds released by the plants. It remains to be determined how this information is processed and leads to the specific behavior of the parasitoids.
The effects of abiotic factors on induced volatile emissions in corn plants
2002, Gouinguene, Sandrine, Turlings, Ted
Many plants respond to herbivory by releasing a specific blend of volatiles that is attractive to natural enemies of the herbivores. In corn (Zea mays), this induced odor blend is mainly composed of terpenoids and indole. The induced signal varies with plant species and genotype, but little is known about the variation due to abiotic factors. Here, we tested the effect of soil humidity, air humidity, temperature, light, and fertilization rate on the emission of induced volatiles in young corn plants. Each factor was tested separately under constant conditions for the other factors. Plants released more when standing in dry soil than in wet soil, whereas for air humidity, the optimal release was found at around 60%, relative humidity. Temperatures between 22degreesC and 27degreesC led to a higher emission than lower or higher temperatures. Light intensity had a dramatic effect. The emission of volatiles did not occur in the dark and increased steadily with an increase in the light intensity. An experiment with an unnatural light-dark cycle showed that the release was fully photophase dependent. Fertilization also had a strong positive effect; the emission of volatiles was minimal when plants were grown under low nutrition, even when results were corrected for plant biomass. Changes in all abiotic factors caused small but significant changes in the relative ratios among the different compounds (quality) in the induced odor blends, except for air humidity. Hence, climatic conditions and nutrient availability can be important factors in determining the intensity and variability in the release of induced plant volatiles.
Induction of volatile emissions in maize by different larval instars of Spodoptera littoralis
2003, Gouinguene, Sandrine, Alborn, Hans, Turlings, Ted
Maize plants under attack by caterpillars emit a specific blend of volatiles that is highly attractive to parasitic wasps. The release of these signals is induced by elicitors in the caterpillar regurgitant. Studies suggest that plants respond differently to different herbivore species and even to different herbivore stages, thus providing parasitoids and predators with specific signals. We tested if this is the case for different larval instars of the noctuid moth Spodoptera littoralis when they feed on maize plants. Cut maize plants were incubated in diluted regurgitant from second, third, or fifth instar caterpillars. There were no differences in total amount released after these treatments, but there were small differences in the release of the minor compounds phenethyl acetate and alpha-humulene. Regurgitant of all three instars contained the elicitor volicitin. To test the effect of actual feeding by the larvae, potted plants were infested with caterpillars of one of the three instars, and volatiles were collected the following day. The intensity of the emissions was correlated with the number of larvae feeding on a plant, and with the amount of damage inflicted, but was independent of the instar that caused the damage. We also used artificial damage to mimic the manner of feeding of each instar to test the importance of physical aspects of damages for the odor emission. The emission was highly variable, but no differences were found among the different types of damage. In olfactometer tests, Microplitis rufiventris, a parasitoid that can only successfully parasitize second and early third instar S. littoralis, did not differentiate among the odors of maize plants attacked by different instar larvae. The odor analyses as well as the parasitoid's responses indicate that maize odors induced by S. littoralis provide parasitoids with poor information on the larval developmental stage. We discuss the results in the context of variability and lack of specificity in odorous plant signals.