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competition plant-mediated, interspecific competition, intraspecific competition, planthopper, plant nutrition, plant resistance induced, Prokelisia dolus, Prokelisia marginata, salt marsh, sap-feeding insect, Spartina


Feeding-induced plant resistance is a well-documented phenomenon for leaf-chewing insects. Furthermore, feeding-induced resistance provides the mechanistic basis for many cases of delayed interspecific competition, whereby previous feeding by one species diminishes the performance of other herbivores which attack the same plant later in the season. This phenomenon, however, has been very poorly investigated for sap-feeding insects. The results we present here for salt marsh-inhabiting planthoppers (Prokelisia dolus and P. marginata) provide one of the few known examples of delayed, plant-mediated interspecific competition between two sap-feeding insects.

Three lines of experimental evidence from the laboratory, field cages, and open field plots provide support for the detrimental effects of previous feeding by one planthopper species on the subsequent survival and performance of the other. Laboratory experiments showed that prior feeding on cordgrass by one congener resulted in reduced performance of the other in the following generation. However, the effect was asymmetric. Prior feeding by P. dolus resulted in prolonged development and reduced body size (a correlate of fecundity) in P. marginata, whereas only development was protracted in P. dolus when plants were previously exposed to P. marginata. Consequently, P. dolus appears to be the superior competitor in the context of delayed, plant-mediated interactions. The negative effects of previous feeding by P. dolus on the development time, body size, and survival of P. marginata obtained in the laboratory were confirmed both in cages and on cage-free islets of cordgrass in the field. Feeding-induced reductions in host-plant quality by P. dolus may provide additional impetus for P. marginata to migrate from shared habitats on the high marsh to nutritionally superior plants in the low marsh rarely occupied by P. dolus.

The mechanism underlying the delayed competitive effects between Prokelisia planthoppers is most likely diminished plant nutrition, because feeding by P. dolus significantly reduces the concentration of essential amino acids in cordgrass. The asymmetry of plant-mediated competition between the Prokelisia species may be due to the ability of P. dolus to better tolerate feeding-depleted levels of plant nitrogen via compensatory feeding.

Even though these two planthoppers do not suffer significant fitness reductions during contemporaneous interactions, they compete severely in the context of feeding-induced plant resistance which is expressed later in the season. This result, coupled with the fact that most studies of interspecific interaction between herbivorous insects are contemporaneous, indicates that interspecific competition may be profoundly underestimated as a structuring force in phytophagous insect communities.

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Copyright by the Ecological Society of America;

Robert F. Denno, Merrill A. Peterson, Claudio Gratton, Jiaan Cheng, Gail A. Langellotto, Andrea F. Huberty, and Deborah L. Finke 2000. FEEDING-INDUCED CHANGES IN PLANT QUALITY MEDIATE INTERSPECIFIC COMPETITION BETWEEN SAP-FEEDING HERBIVORES. Ecology 81:1814–1827.[1814:FICIPQ]2.0.CO;2

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Herbivores; Phytophagous insects; Competition (Biology); Insects--Feeding and feeds; Plants--Insect resistance; Planthoppers









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