Synergistic Effects of Three Piper Amides on Generalist and Specialist Herbivores

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The tropical rainforest shrub Piper cenocladum, which is normally defended against herbivores by a mutualistic ant, contains three amides that have various defensive functions. While the ants are effective primarily against specialist herbivores, we hypothesized that these secondary compounds would be effective against a wider range of insects, thus providing a broad array of defenses against herbivores. We also tested whether a mixture of amides would be more effective against herbivores than individual amides. Diets spiked with amides were offered to five herbivores: a naïve generalist caterpillar (Spodoptera frugiperda), two caterpillar species that are monophagous on P. cenocladum (Eois spp.), leaf-cutting ants (Atta cephalotes), and an omnivorous ant (Paraponera clavata). Amides had negative effects on all insects, whether they were naïve, experienced, generalized, or specialized feeders. For Spodoptera, amide mixtures caused decreased pupal weights and survivorship and increased development times. Eois pupal weights, larval mass gain, and development times were affected by additions of individual amides, but increased parasitism and lower survivorship were caused only by the amide mixture. Amide mixtures also deterred feeding by the two ant species, and crude plant extracts were strongly deterrent to P. clavata. The mixture of all three amides had the most dramatic deterrent and toxic effects across experiments, with the effects usually surpassing expected additive responses, indicating that these compounds can act synergistically against a wide array of herbivore

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