Milkweeds dump defences when attacked by immune herbivores

Last updated: 26 Feb, 2018

Do you know what caused soldiers to stop wearing chainmail and steel plate armour?


Armies evolved away from heavy metallic armour because it ceased to be effective against modern weapons, and there was no longer any point inspending resources on it. “Adapt or die,” as the saying goes.


Now, new research from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University shows that plants also adapt away from obsolete defences.



The study, published in New Phytologist and led by Tatyana Livshultz, PhD, assistant curator of Botany at the Academy and an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, found genetic evidence that multiple lineages of plants, whose ancestors produced a chemical that may deter herbivores, evolved to stop producing it, potentially as a response to a prime foe’s immunity.


Continue reading on the New Phyt blog.


Read the paper: Livshultz, T., Kaltenegger, E., Straub, S. C. K., Weitemier, K., Hirsch, E., Koval, K., Mema, L. and Liston, A. (2018) Evolution of pyrrolizidine alkaloid biosynthesis in Apocynaceae: revisiting the defence de-escalation hypothesisNew Phytologist. doi: 10.1111/nph.15061