Insects and mites are small organisms that are very well informed about their environment. They can use chemical cues such as volatiles or non-volatile cues to obtain information on the presence of e.g. their food, competitors, sexual partners, and enemies. Insects are members of complex communities consisting of e.g. plants, herbivorous, carnivorous arthropods and pollinators.
The ecology of body odour
Herbivorous and carnivorous arthropods use plant volatiles when foraging for food. In response to herbivory plants emit a chemical blend that may be quantitatively and qualitatively different from the blend emitted when intact (plant ‘cry for help’). This induced volatile blend alters the interactions of the plant with its environment. It has been well established that carnivores (predators and parasitoids) are attracted by the volatiles induced by their herbivorous victims. Apart from a benefit from attracting carnivores, the induced volatiles can have a serious cost because herbivores may be attracted. Yet, whether the attracted herbivores settle on the plant that emits the volatiles may depend on the presence of herbivore and/or carnivore cues that indicate that the plant is a competitor- and/or enemy-dense space. Thus, the benefit of emission of induced volatiles is likely to depend on environmental conditions. Whether plants can influence the emission of the induced volatiles, taking the prevalent environmental conditions into account, is an interesting question that needs to be addressed. The induced volatiles may also affect interactions of the emitting plant with its neighbours, e.g. through altered competitive ability or by the neighbour exploiting the emitted information. This is a topic that should receive more attention.We investigate the ecology of infochemicals through a multidisciplinary approach, from genes to the community.
Apart from research on infochemicals in plant-arthropod interactions, we have also started a study on the role of infochemicals in chicken-mite interactions and the potential for exploiting the infochemicals to control mites that attack chicken.
Our research focuses on:
- Chemical ecology of multitrophic interactions: what chemicals are induced in plants by herbivory, what is their effect on arthropod behaviour, and how do the cues affect interactions in the community?
- Plant-mediated interactions among microbes, herbivorous insects, carnivorous insects and pollinating insects.
- Molecular ecology of multitrophic interactions: what signal-transduction pathways are induced in plants by herbivory, what genes are induced, what transcriptome changes occur in response to attack by different types of organisms?
- Behavioural ecology of predator avoidance: how do predator cues affect prey behaviour?
Modulation of flavonoid metabolites in Arabidopsis thaliana through overexpression of the MYB75 transcription factor: role of kaempferol-3,7-dirhamnoside in resistance to the specialist insect herbivore Pieris brassicaeJournal of Experimental Botany 65 (2014)8. - ISSN 0022-0957 - p. 2203 - 2217.
Plant interactions with multiple insect herbivores: from community to genesAnnual Review of Plant Biology 65 (2014). - ISSN 1543-5008 - p. 689 - 713.
Chemical ecology: body odor, behavior, and body building : CommentaryJournal of Chemical Ecology 40 (2014)4. - ISSN 0098-0331 - p. 313 - 314.
The insect cookbook : food for a sustainable planetNew York : Columbia University Press - ISBN 9780231166843 - p.
Folivory Affects Composition of Nectar, Floral Odor and Modifies Pollinator BehaviorJournal of Chemical Ecology 40 (2014)1. - ISSN 0098-0331 - p. 39 - 49.
Analysing aphid behaviour with time-to-event techniques to discriminate between susceptible and resistant plants.In: Proceedings of the Netherlands Entomological Society meeting volume 24, 2012. - NL : Netherlands Entomological Society - p. 9 - 16.
Symbiont-mediated adaptation by planthoppers and leafhoppers to resistant rice varietiesArthropod-Plant Interactions 7 (2013)6. - ISSN 1872-8855 - p. 591 - 605.
Induced plant responses to microbes and insectsFrontiers in Plant Science 4 (2013). - ISSN 1664-462X - 3 p.
Two-way plant mediated interactions between root-associated microbes and insects: from ecology to mechanismsFrontiers in Plant Science 4 (2013). - ISSN 1664-462X - 11 p.
Feeding behaviour and performance of different populations of the black currant-lettuce aphid, Nasonovia ribisnigri, on resistant and susceptible lettuceEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 148 (2013)2. - ISSN 0013-8703 - p. 130 - 141.