Gall insects can avoid and alter indirect plant defenses

John F. Tooker, Jason R. Rohr, Warren G. Abrahamson, Consuelo M. De Moraes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


• Parasitic species can dramatically alter host traits. Some of these parasite-induced changes can be considered adaptive manipulations that benefit the parasites. Gall-inducing insects are parasites well known for their ability to alter host-plant morphology and physiology, including the distribution of plant defensive compounds. Here it was investigated whether gall-inducing species alter indirect plant defenses, involving the release of volatile compounds that are attractive to foraging natural enemies. • Using field and factorial laboratory experiments, volatile production by goldenrod (Solidago altissima) plants was examined in response to attack by two gall-inducing species, the tephritid fly Eurosta solidaginis and the gelechiid moth Gnorimoschema gallaesolidaginis, as well as the meadow spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius, and the generalist caterpillar Heliothis virescens. • Heliothis virescens elicited strong indirect defensive responses from S. altissima, but the gall-inducing species and spittlebugs did not. More significantly, infestation by E. solidaginis appeared to suppress volatile responses to subsequent attack by the generalist caterpillar. • The extensive control that E. solidaginis apparently exerts over host-plant defense responses may reduce the predation risk for the gall inducer and the subsequent herbivore, and could influence community-level dynamics, including the distribution of herbivorous insect species associated with S. altissima parasitized by E. solidaginis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-671
Number of pages15
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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