Parasitoid-plant mutualism: Parasitoid attack of herbivore increases plant reproduction

  • Van Loon J
  • De Boer J
  • Dicke M
  • 118


    Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
  • 144


    Citations of this article.


We tested whether a plant's life time seed production is increased by parasitization of herbivores in a tritrophic system, Arabidopsis thaliana (Brassicaceae) plants, Pieris rapae (Lepidoptera: Pieridae) caterpillars and the solitary endoparasitoid Cotesia rubecula (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). We established seed production for intact A. thaliana plants, plants that were mechanically damaged, plants fed upon by parasitized caterpillars and plants fed upon by unparasitized caterpillars. In the first experiment, with ecotype Landsberg (erecta mutant), herbivory by unparasitized P. rapae caterpillars resulted in a strongly reduced seed production compared to undamaged plants. In contrast, damage by P. rapae caterpillars that had been parasitized by C. rubecula did not result in a significant reduction in seed production. For the second experiment with the ecotype Columbia, the results were identical. Plants damaged by unparasitized caterpillars only produced seeds on regrown shoots. Seed production of plants that had been mechanically damaged was statistically similar to that of undamaged plants. Production of the first ripe siliques by plants fed upon by unparasitized caterpillars was delayed by 18-22 days for Landsberg and 9-10 days for Columbia. We conclude that parasitization of P. rapae by C. rubecula potentially confers a considerable fitness benefit for A. thaliana plants when compared to plants exposed to feeding damage by unparasitized P. rapae larvae. Plants that attract parasitoids and parasitoids that respond to herbivore-induced plant volatiles will both experience selective advantage, justifying the use of the term mutualism for this parasitoid-plant interaction. This type of mutualism is undoubtedly very common in nature.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • Cotesia rubecula
  • Fitness
  • Infochemicals
  • Mutualism
  • Parasitization
  • Pieris rapae
  • Regro wth
  • Tritrophic interactions

Get free article suggestions today

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research

Sign up here
Already have an account ?Sign in

Find this document


Cite this document

Choose a citation style from the tabs below

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free