Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 492–495 | Cite as

Host Plant Invests in Growth Rather than Chemical Defense When Attacked by a Specialist Herbivore

Rapid Communication


Plant defensive compounds may be a cost rather than a benefit when plants are attacked by specialist insects that may overcome chemical barriers by strategies such as sequestering plant compounds. Plants may respond to specialist herbivores by compensatory growth rather than chemical defense. To explore the use of defensive chemistry vs. compensatory growth we studied Brugmansia suaveolens (Solanaceae) and the specialist larvae of the ithomiine butterfly Placidina euryanassa, which sequester defensive tropane alkaloids (TAs) from this host plant. We investigated whether the concentration of TAs in B. suaveolens was changed by P. euryanassa damage, and whether plants invest in growth, when damaged by the specialist. Larvae feeding during 24 hr significantly decreased TAs in damaged plants, but they returned to control levels after 15 days without damage. Damaged and undamaged plants did not differ significantly in leaf area after 15 days, indicating compensatory growth. Our results suggest that B. suaveolens responds to herbivory by the specialist P. euryanassa by investing in growth rather than chemical defense.

Key Words

Brugmansia suaveolens Compensatory growth Lethal plant defense paradox Placidina euryanassa Tropane alkaloids 



We thank the Prefeitura Municipal de Jundiaí, SP, Brazil, for permission to work at the Serra do Japi. We acknowledge A. Linhares for help in MANOVA analyses, D. Rodrigues, G. Romero, C. Orians, and two anonymous reviewers for suggestions and criticisms, and J. Rincones for the assistance with the English language. This work was supported by FAPESP, CNPq, and IFS grants.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratório de Ecologia Química, Departamento de Biologia AnimalInstituto de Biologia, UnicampCampinasBrazil
  2. 2.Instituto de Ciências da NaturezaUniversidade Federal de AlfenasAlfenasBrazil

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