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Attraction of willow warblers to sawfly-damaged mountain birches: novel function of inducible plant defences?




Plants wounded by invertebrate herbivores emit volatile compounds which invertebrate predators and parasitoids can utilize in locating herbivore prey or hosts. We studied the possibility that an analogical phenomenon might operate between plants and avian insectivores. We show that foliar damage by sawfly larvae on the mountain birch led a passerine bird (willow warbler) to prefer intact branches from trees with introduced larvae over intact branches from control trees. Besides olfaction, the UV vision of birds offers a possible mechanism, as some herbivore-inducible leaf compounds, e.g. surface flavonoids, have UV spectral maxima well within the range of birds’ UV vision.

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