Photosynthetic tissues, the major food source of many invertebrates and vertebrates, are well defended. Many defence traits in leaves are controlled via the jasmonate signalling pathway in which jasmonate acts as a hormone by binding to a receptor to activate responses that lead to increased resistance to invertebrate folivores. We predicted that mutations in jasmonate synthesis might also increase the vulnerability of leaves to vertebrate folivores and tested this hypothesis using the Eastern Hermann's tortoise (Eurotestudo boettgeri) and an Arabidopsis thaliana (Brassicaceae) allene oxide synthase (aos) mutant unable to synthesize jasmonate. Tortoises preferred the aos mutant over the wild type (WT). Based on these results, we then investigated the effect of mutating jasmonate perception using a segregating population of the recessive A. thaliana jasmonate receptor mutant coronatine insensitive1-1 (coi1-1). Genotyping of these plants after tortoise feeding revealed that the homozygous coi1-1 receptor mutant was consumed more readily than the heterozygous mutant or the WT. Therefore, the plant's ability to synthesize or perceive jasmonate reduces feeding by a vertebrate herbivore. We also tested whether or not tortoise feeding behaviour was influenced by glucosinolates, the principal defence chemicals in Arabidopsis leaves with known roles in defence against many generalist insects. However, in contrast to what has been observed with such insects, leaves in which the levels of these compounds were reduced genetically were consumed at a similar rate to those of the WT.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.