Christin Walther

   Department of Biochemistry
   Chemical Ecology in Poplar
 Phone:+49 (0)3641 57 1314Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
 Fax:+49 (0)3641 57 1302Hans-Knöll-Straße 8
  emailD-07745 Jena

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The Fitness of herbivore insects, i.e. growth rates, weight and fecundity, is greatly affected by plant nutritional quality. In natural environments herbivore insects encounter spatial and temporal variations in host plant quality. Plant quality differs not only between plant species, but also between different genotypes of the same species. There may be even substantial within-tree variation in nutritional quality of the foliage. It has been shown that an insect actively regulates its nutritional intake by selective feeding. Herbivorous insects are not only confronted with varying nutrients in their food plants but also a plethora of repellent or toxic plant defense compounds. Furthermore, herbivorous insects encounter inter- and intraspecific food competition and predation by e.g. parasitoids and invertebrate but also vertebrate predators.

Therefore the question arises what factors influence feeding decisions of an arboricolous insect herbivore. The majority of studies about selective feeding in insects investigate decision making of grass- or herbs-feeding species like Locusta migratoria or Spodoptera littoralis. Observations of foraging strategies in herbivores feeding on long-lived woody plants are rare. In my PhD project I want to investigate the behavioral and nutritional ecology of herbivore insects in black poplar (Populus nigra L.).

To answer the main question we need fundamental knowledge about the nutritional intake target of poplar feeding insects. Therefore experiments with artificial diet are a helpful approach to study nutrient regulation of insects in face of different macronutrient levels e.g. carbohydrates or protein. In a second step, I want to untangle nutrient-allelochemical interactions by adding secondary metabolites to artificial diets which are typical for P. nigra. Future research will also address the question how competitors, parasitoids and predators affect feeding decision of herbivore insects.
last updated on 2019-04-24