Chemical defense acquired via pharmacophagy can lead to protection from predation for conspecifics in a sawfly
Singh, Pragya; Grone, Neil; Tewes, Lisa Johanna; Müller, Caroline (2023), Chemical defense acquired via pharmacophagy can lead to protection from predation for conspecifics in a sawfly, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.mpg4f4r20
Predation is an important selection pressure acting on organisms, with organisms evolving diverse anti-predator strategies to combat it. One such strategy is chemical defense in which organisms either synthesize or extrinsically acquire defensive chemicals. Little is known about the intraspecific transfer of such chemicals and if such chemicals acquired from conspecifics can also serve as defense against predation. Here, we used adults of the turnip sawfly, Athalia rosae, which can acquire the plant chemicals ‘clerodanoids’ via pharmacophagy after exposure to the plant, Ajuga reptans. We show that clerodanoid access mediates protection against predation by mantids for the sawflies. Moreover, even indirect access to clerodanoids, via nibbling on conspecifics that had access to the plant, resulted in protection against predation albeit to a lower degree than direct access. Furthermore, sawflies that had no direct access to clerodanoids were less consumed by mantids when they were grouped with conspecifics that had direct access. Most of such initially undefended sawflies could acquire clerodanoids from conspecifics that had direct access to the plant, although in low quantities. Together our results demonstrate that clerodanoids serve as chemical defense that can be intraspecifically transferred. Moreover, the presence of chemically defended individuals in a group can confer protection onto conspecifics that had no direct access to clerodanoids, suggesting a ‘herd-protection’ effect.