Insect predators affect plant resistance via density- and trait-mediated indirect interactions


Present address: Department of Entomology and Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Comstock Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. E-mail:


Predators can affect herbivores both through direct consumption (density-mediated interactions) and by changing behavioural, physiological or morphological attributes of the prey (trait-mediated interactions). These effects on the herbivore can in turn affect the plant through density- and trait-mediated indirect interactions (DMIIs and TMIIs). While the effects of DMIIs and TMIIs imposed by predators has been shown to influence plant density and plant communities, we know little about the effects on plant quality. In addition, the DMII and TMII components of the predator may influence each other so that the total effect of the predator on the plant is not simply the sum of the DMII and TMII. We examined DMIIs and TMIIs between a stinkbug predator and a caterpillar, and show how these interactions affect plant quality, as measured by damage, resistance to herbivores, and a defence chemical, peroxidase. We used novel methods to estimate the independent and non-additive contribution of DMIIs and TMIIs to the plant phenotype. Both predator-induced DMIIs and TMIIs caused decreases in the amount of caterpillar herbivory on plants; a strong non-additive effect between the two resulted from redundancy in their effects. TMIIs initiated by the predator were primarily responsible for a decrease in induced plant resistance. However, DMIIs predominated for reducing the production of peroxidase. These data demonstrate how DMIIs and TMIIs initiated by predators cascade through tri-trophic interactions to affect plant damage and induced resistance.