Infection of plants by a bacterial endosymbiont mediates host selection in the potato psyllid

Wednesday, November 13, 2013: 2:00 PM
Meeting Room 10 C (Austin Convention Center)
Thomas Seth Davis , Dept. Plant, Soil, and Entomological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID
Peter J. Landolt , USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Wapato, WA
Joseph E. Munyaneza , Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory, USDA - ARS, Wapato, WA
David R. Horton , USDA-ARS, Wapato, WA
Although bacterial endosymbioses are common among phloeophagous herbivores, little is known regarding the effects of symbionts on herbivore host selection and population dynamics. We tested the hypothesis that plant selection and reproductive performance by a phloem-feeding herbivore (potato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli) is mediated by infection of plants with a bacterial endosymbiont. We controlled for the effects of herbivory and endosymbiont infection by exposing potato plants (Solanum tuberosum) to psyllids infected with “CandidatusLiberibacter solanacearum” or to uninfected psyllids. We used these treatments as a basis to experimentally test plant volatile emissions, herbivore settling and oviposition preferences, and herbivore population growth. Three important findings emerged: (1) plant volatile profiles differed with respect to both herbivory and herbivory plus endosymbiont infection when compared to undamaged control plants; (2) herbivores initially settled on plants exposed to endosymbiont-infected psyllids but later defected and oviposited primarily on plants exposed only to uninfected psyllids; and (3) plant infection status had little effect on herbivore reproduction, though plant flowering was associated with a 39% reduction in herbivore density on average. Our experiments support the hypothesis that plant infection with endosymbionts alters plant volatile profiles, and infected plants initially recruited herbivores but later repelled them. Also, our findings suggest that the endosymbiont may not place negative selection pressure on its host herbivore in this system, but plant flowering phenology appears correlated with psyllid population performance.