Ballhorn, Daniel J.; Lieberei, Reinhard; Heil, Martin; Pietrowski:
Quantitative effects of cyanogenesis on an adapted herbivore
In: Journal of Chemical Ecology, S. 2195 - 2208
2007Artikel/Aufsatz in Zeitschrift
Quantitative effects of cyanogenesis on an adapted herbivore
Ballhorn, Daniel J.; Lieberei, Reinhard; Heil, Martin; Pietrowski


Plant cyanogenesis means the release of gaseous hydrogen cyanide (HCN) in response to cell damage and is considered as an effective defense against generalist herbivores. In contrast, specialists are generally believed not to be affected negatively by this trait. However, quantitative data on long-term effects of cyanogenesis on specialists are rare. In this study, we used lima bean accessions (Fabaceae: Phaseolus lunatus L.) with high quantitative variability of cyanogenic features comprising cyanogenic potential (HCNp; concentration of cyanogenic precursors) and cyanogenic capacities (HCNc; release of gaseous HCN per unit time). In feeding trials, we analyzed performance of herbivorous Mexican bean beetle (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae: Epilachna varivestis Mulsant) on selected lines characterized by high (HC-plants) and low HCNp (LC-plants). Larval and adult stages of this herbivore feed on a narrow range of legumes and prefer cyanogenic lima bean as host plant. Nevertheless, we found that performance of beetles (larval weight gain per time and body mass of adult beetles) was significantly affected by lima bean HCNp: Body weight decreased and developmental period of larvae and pupae increased on HC-plants during the first generation of beetles and then remained constant for four consecutive generations. In addition, we found continuously decreasing numbers of eggs and larval hatching as inter-generational effects on HC-plants. In contrast to HC-plants, constantly high performance was observed among four generations on LC-plants. Our results demonstrate that Mexican bean beetle, although preferentially feeding on lima bean, is quantitatively affected by the HCNp of its host plant. Effects can only be detected when considering more than one generation. Thus, cyanide-containing precursors can have negative effects even on herbivores adapted to feed on cyanogenic plants.