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Do exotic generalist predators alter host plant preference of a native willow beetle?

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1 Selection can favour herbivores that choose host plants benefitting their offspring either by enhancing growth rates or by increasing larval defences against native predators. For exotic predator species that feed on herbivores, their success with invading new habitats may depend upon overcoming defences used by native prey. Whether exotic predators can alter herbivore host choice has remained unexamined. Therefore, we compared the efficacy of larval defence by Chrysomela knabi (a native beetle species) that had fed on two native willow hosts: Salix sericea (a phenolic glycoside (PG)-rich species) and Salix eriocephala (a PG-poor species), when attacked by exotic generalist predators. In addition, the preference and performance of C. knabi on S. sericea and S. eriocephala was examined.

2 Chrysomela knabi preferred and performed better on S. sericea. In a common garden, adult C. knabi were nine-fold more common and oviposited five-fold more frequently on S. sericea than on S. eriocephala. In the laboratory, adult feeding preference on leaf discs and survival rates of larvae were both greater on S. sericea, and time to pupation was shorter.

3 Chrysomela knabi larvae produced significantly more salicylaldehyde when fed S. sericea leaves than when fed S. eriocephala leaves. Additionally, those larvae with greater salicylaldehyde had reduced predation by two exotic generalist predators, Harmonia axyridis larvae and juvenile Tenodera aridifolia sinensis.

4 The results obtained in the present study suggest that selection favoured the preference of C. knabi for PG-rich willow plants because larvae grew and survived better and that selection by common exotic generalist predators would reinforce this preference.
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Keywords: Chrysomela knabi; Salix; exotic predators; host preference; larval defence; larval performance; nontarget effect; tritrophic interaction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Chemistry, University of Evansville, Evansville, IN 47722, U.S.A. 2: Department of Biology, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604, U.S.A.

Publication date: 2009-05-01

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