Journal Article

A Novel Mechanism by which Silica Defends Grasses Against Herbivory

J. W. Hunt, A. P. Dean, R. E. Webster, G. N. Johnson and A. R. Ennos

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 102, issue 4, pages 653-656
Published in print October 2008 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online August 2008 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcn130
A Novel Mechanism by which Silica Defends Grasses Against Herbivory

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background and Aims

Previous studies have shown that silica in grass leaves defends them against small herbivores, which avoid high-silica grasses and digest them less efficiently. This study tested the idea that silica can reduce digestibility by preventing the mechanical breakdown of chlorenchyma cells.

Methods

Both the percentage of total chlorophyll liberated from high- and low-silica grass leaves by mechanical grinding and the chlorophyll content of locust faeces were measured.

Key Results

High-silica grasses released less chlorophyll after grinding and retained more after passing through the gut of locusts, showing that silica levels correlated with increased mechanical protection.

Conclusions

These results suggest that silica may defend grasses at least in part by reducing mechanical breakdown of the leaf, and that mechanical protection of resources in chlorenchyma cells is a novel and potentially important mechanism by which silica protects grasses.

Keywords: Grass; silica; locust; digestibility; defence; Lolium perenne; Festuca ovina

Journal Article.  2558 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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