Nickel hyperaccumulation by Streptanthus polygaloides protects against the folivore Plutella xylostella (Lepidoptera : Plutellidae)
We determined the effectiveness of Ni as an elemental defence of Streptanthus polygaloides (Brassicaceae) against a crucifer specialist folivore, diamondback moth (DBM), Plutella xylostella. An oviposition experiment used arrays of S. polygaloides grown on Ni-amended (high-Ni) soil interspersed with plants grown on unamended (low-Ni) soil and eggs were allowed to hatch and larvae fed freely among plants in the arrays. We also explored oviposition preference by allowing moths to oviposit on foil sheets coated with high- or low-Ni plant extract. This was followed by an experiment using low-Ni plant extract to which varying amounts of Ni had been added and an experiment using sheets coated with sinigrin (allyl glucosinolate) as an oviposition stimulant. Diamondback moths laid 2.5-fold more eggs on low-Ni plants than on high-Ni plants and larval feeding was greater on low-Ni plants. High-Ni plants grew twice as tall, produced more leaves, and produced almost 3.5-fold more flowers. Low-Ni plants contained more allyl glucosinolate than high-Ni plants and moths preferred to oviposit on foil sheets dipped in low-Ni plant extract. Moths showed no preference when Ni concentration of low-Ni extract was varied and overwhelmingly preferred sinigrin coated sheets. We conclude that Ni hyperaccumulation is an effective elemental defence against this herbivore, increasing plant fitness through a combination of toxicity to DBM larvae and decreased oviposition by adults.