Insect host-plant choice in a changing climate

Insects share a tight relationship with their host plants and therefore, it is predictable that insect herbivores will be affected both directly and indirectly by climate change. We will investigate how pests adapt and select host plants to changing environmental condition such as increasing levels of carbon dioxide and ozone. Further, we will also predict how these adaptations may affect host shifts and niche expansion ability of the pest, in our case the model organism Spodoptera littoralis. To do so we will measure pest’s developmental parameters and carry out behavioural and neurophysiological response to host plants, over multiple generation by rearing both the plant and pest at higher level of carbon dioxide and ozone. We will also carry out transcriptomic analysis of different developmental stages of the pest to understand the underlying physiological adaptation. This study will shed light on how pollution affects Spodoptera’s development, physiology, host selection and its niche expansion ability. Our hypothesis is that increased levels of carbon dioxide and ozone would complicate the decision-making process towards its host plants in initial generation(s) but gradually in subsequent generation(s), it would adapt to the change. This would also correlate with the development growth parameters and physiological changes of the insects in their respective generation.

Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr Satyajeet Gupta (SLU)

Supervision: Dr Peter Anderson (SLU), Dr Markus Knaden (MPI-CE) , and Dr Silke Sachse (MPI-CE).

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