Ingenious technique in neighbourhood dispute: tobacco plants send hungry caterpillars to competitor

Plants cannot run away from animals which eat them, but many species have their own ways of defending themselves; they produce chemicals which don’t do hungry creepy-crawlies any good. In this way, wild tobacco plants strike back at the caterpillars of the tobacco hawk moth. A new study led by researchers from the iDiv research centre, the University of Jena and the UFZ shows that it can be worthwhile for a plant to put up with these little creatures for a few days before starting its defence. In this way, the caterpillars move to a neighbouring plant when, and only when they are mature enough to be really good eaters, thus giving plant number one an advantage in intraspecies competition.

Quell: IDW Informationsdienst Wissenschaft