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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2012

Smelling a diseased host: grapevine moth responses to healthy and fungus-infected grapes

Tasin, Marco; Knudsen, Geir Kjolberg; Pertota, Ilaria; Tasin, Marco


Herbivorous insects use information about volatile substances to select their host plants. The possibility that insects use these volatiles to assess the infection status of a host plant has rarely been tested. The assessment of host status via olfaction may allow a more successful allocation of time and energy towards the procurement of valuable resources for the offspring. We hypothesized that olfactory cues play a role in providing an herbivorous insect with information about the health status of a potential host plant. To test this hypothesis, we compared the attraction and oviposition response of the grapevine moth, Lobesia botrana, to healthy grapes, Vitis vinifera, with the response to grapes infected with a phytopathogenic fungus, Botrytis cinerea. The fungal infection elicited substantial reductions in both attraction from a distance and oviposition on the host. By preventing contact with the fruits, we found that volatiles from the infected grapes were the signal eliciting the observed behaviour. Experiments with a synthetic compound, 3-methyl-1-butanol, identified in the odour of infected grapes, confirmed the essential function of olfactory cues in this process, both in the laboratory and in the field. In our system, the avoidance of a diseased plant supported the preference performance hypothesis in L. botrana. Results are discussed in relation to the role of fungal volatiles in plant-insect relationships. (C) 2011 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


attraction; Botrytis cinerea; fungal volatile; insect host location; Lobesia botrana; olfaction; oviposition cue repellence; Vitis vinifera

Published in

Animal Behaviour
2012, volume: 83, number: 2, pages: 555-562

Authors' information

Tasin, Marco
Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research (Bioforsk)
Knudsen, Geir Kjolberg
Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research (Bioforsk)
Pertota, Ilaria
Tasin, Marco

UKÄ Subject classification

Behavioral Sciences Biology

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