Friday, November 24, 2006

It's Elemental

Interesting report over at PressZoom about the ability of an invasive moth to bypass its host plant's chemical defenses. The native Colorado wildflower prince's plume (Stanleya pinnata) takes up excess amounts of the element Selenium and stores it, a process called hyperaccumulation. Such high concentrations of Selenium act as inhibitors of herbivory; native caterpillars tend to avoid prince's plume, and enough nibbling on the plant can lead to the insect's death. But researchers found that the introduced diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) is not deterred by high Selenium levels, and in fact feeds on prince's plume with no adverse effects. There is even a native, Selenium-tolerant parasitic wasp (Diadegma insulare) that parasitizes the moth. Interested readers may want to check out the abstract for the original research paper.

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