Sex and Immunity - Specific Projects

• Influence of immune defense responses on sexual communication
  in a generalist and specialist moth species

Generalist herbivores are exposed to a much larger variety of pathogens and other stress factors (e.g. plant defensive compounds) than specialist herbivores. Therefore, generalist herbivores are likely to have a much stronger and/or more diverse immune defense system than specialist herbivores. We are investigating immune defense responses in the generalist moth Heliothis virescens and its close relative, the specialist Heliothis subflexa.

Collaborator: Martin Kaltenpoth

• Identification of the bacterial community in moth midguts

Because gut microbiota play an important role on shaping host physiology, we aim to determine whether the gut microflora varies within species (Heliothis virescens, H. subflexa and Plutella xylostella) and whether this is correlated to the host plants larvae have been feeding on. We also investigate the possible role of the most abundant bacteria in host plant preference and performance, as well as their influence on moth sexual communication.

Collaborators: Martin Kaltenpoth, Hans Breeuwer