Herbivore damage to sagebrush induces resistance in wild tobacco: Evidence for eavesdropping between plants

Richard Karban, John Maron, Gary W. Felton, Gary Ervin, Herbert Eichenseer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Whether plants respond to cues produced by neighbors has been a topic of much debate. Recent evidence suggests that wild tobacco plants transplanted near experimentally clipped sagebrush neighbors suffer less leaf herbivory than tobacco controls with unclipped neighbors. Here we expand these results by showing evidence for induced resistance in naturally rooted tobacco when sagebrush neighbors are clipped either with scissors or damaged with actual herbivores. Tobacco plants with sagebrush neighbors clipped in both ways had enhanced activity levels of polyphenol oxidase (PPO), a chemical marker of induced resistance in many solanaceous plants. Eavesdropping was found for plants that were naturally rooted, although only when sagebrush and tobacco grew within 10 cm of each other. Although tobacco with clipped neighbors experienced reduced herbivory, tobacco that grew close to sagebrush had lower production of capsules than plants that grew far from sagebrush. When neighboring tobacco rather than sagebrush was clipped, neither levels of PPO nor levels of leaf damage to tobacco were affected. Eavesdropping on neighboring sagebrush, but not neighboring tobacco, may result from plants using a jasmonate signaling system. These results indicate that plants eavesdrop in nature and that this behavior can increase resistance to herbivory although it does not necessarily increase plant fitness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-332
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Herbivore damage to sagebrush induces resistance in wild tobacco: Evidence for eavesdropping between plants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this