Specialist versus generalist insect herbivores and plant defense

Jared G. Ali, Anurag A. Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

586 Scopus citations


There has been a long-standing hypothesis that specialist and generalist insects interact with plants in distinct ways. Although many tests exist, they typically compare only one species of each, they sometimes confound specialization and feeding guild, and often do not link chemical or transcriptional measures of the plant to actual resistance. In this review, we synthesize current data on whether specialists and generalists actually differ, with special attention to comparisons of their differential elicitation of plant responses. Although we find few consistencies in plant induction by specialists versus generalists, feeding guilds are predictive of differential plant responses. We outline a novel set of predictions based on current coevolutionary hypotheses and make methodological suggestions for improved comparisons of specialists and generalists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-302
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Plant Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science


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