Project properties

Title Plant responses to multiple herbivory: does parasitism status of early herbivore attack affect subsequent herbivore community composition?
Group Entomology, Laboratory of
Project type thesis
Credits 24/36
Supervisor(s) Antonino Cusumano, Daan Mertens, Erik Poelman
Examiner(s) Prof. Dr. Marcel Dicke
Contact info
Begin date 2017/01/01
End date 2020/12/31
Description Plants under natural conditions are generally attacked by a dynamic community of insect herbivore species. Several studies have shown that early herbivore attack can impact subsequent herbivore colonization during the growing season through plant-mediated effects such as changes in plant structure and plant chemistry. The presence of an initial herbivore species can affect the strength and nature of these insect-plant interactions, with reciprocal effects cascading through the insect community and ultimately affecting plant fitness. Here we hypothesize that the impact of early herbivore attack on subsequent insect colonization and community composition can also be affected by the parasitism status of the first attacker. Parasitism status can alter the herbivore phenotype via changes in the host physiology/behaviour which affects the way a given herbivore interacts with the plant. Remarkably, parasitoids developing within their herbivore hosts are capable of affecting not only the growth but also the composition of the oral secretion of the herbivores which is known to play a key role in plant defence mechanisms; indeed many elicitors that plants use in herbivore recognition have been identified in the regurgitant of caterpillars that come in contact with the plant tissues during herbivore feeding.
Understanding if induced responses to herbivory are driven by parasitism status of early attackers requires manipulation of insect communities in which a first coloniser (parasitized or not) will be experimentally introduced in the field in order to monitor subsequent community development as well as fitness consequences for the plant (using seed size/quantity as proxies). This research question will be investigated using brassicaceous plant species and their associated insect community members as model study organisms.
Used skills Community ecology, combination of insect preference/performance.
Requirements For doing a BSc-thesis at Entomology, there are no requirements for specific courses.
For doing a MSc-thesis or internship at Entomology, the following requirements apply: ENT-30806 + a second ENT-course (preferably ENT-30306 or ENT-50806 or ENT-53806). As an alternative for the second ENT-course, PHP-30806 or BHE-30306 can be selected.
Note: these requirements do not apply for MBI students; MBI students should check the requirements for doing an ENT MSc-thesis or internship in the study programme of their specialisation.