Are insect frugivores always plant pests? The impact of fruit fly (Diptera: Tephritidae) larvae on host plant fitness

Wilson, Alexsis J., Schutze, Mark, Elmouttie, David, & Clarke, Anthony R. (2012) Are insect frugivores always plant pests? The impact of fruit fly (Diptera: Tephritidae) larvae on host plant fitness. Arthropod-Plant Interactions.

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Herbivory is generally regarded as negatively impacting on host plant fitness. Frugivorous insects, which feed directly on plant reproductive tissues, are predicted to be particularly damaging to hosts. We tested this prediction with the fruit fly, Bactrocera tryoni, by recording the impact of larval feeding on two direct (seed number and germination) and two indirect (fruit decay rate and attraction/deterrence of vertebrate frugivores) measures of host plant fitness. Experiments were done in the laboratory, glasshouse and tropical rainforest. We found no negative impact of larval feeding on seed number or germination for three test plants: tomato, capsicum and eggplant. Further, larval feeding accelerated the initiation of decay and increased the final level of fruit decay in tomatoes, apples, pawpaw and pear, a result considered to be beneficial to the fruit. In rainforest studies, native rodents preferred infested apple and pears compared to uninfested control fruit; however, there were no differences observed between treatments for tomato and pawpaw. For our study fruits, these results demonstrate that fruit fly larval infestation has neutral or beneficial impacts on the host plant, an outcome which may be largely influenced by the physical properties of the host. These results may contribute to explaining why fruit flies have not evolved the same level of host specialization generally observed for other herbivore groups.

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3 citations in Scopus
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2 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 54403
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Genetic Fitness, Frugivory, Tomato, Capsicum, Eggplant, Bactrocera tryoni
DOI: 10.1007/s11829-012-9205-4
ISSN: 1872-8847
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (060000)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Deposited On: 30 Oct 2012 23:35
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2013 15:15

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