Ian T. Baldwin
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Biology
"What 5 Insects Told Us About How A Native Plant Copes With Real-World Problems"
Abstract: Thanks to the long-term patient funding of the Max Planck Society, we have developed a fire-chasing native tobacco plant, Nicotiana attenuata, which grows in the Great Basin Desert, into a model for the study of plant-ecological interactions, particularly those biotic interactions that dominate the primordial agricultural niche. By training students in the lost art of natural history discovery, we have used the plant’s natural history interactions to phenotype transformed and recombinant inbred lines (RILs) of this plant, in a nature preserve in the plant’s native habitat, to understand the function of genes required for survival in nature. This talk will describe what 5 native insect herbivores have taught us about traits that are essential for plant function. The 5 insects come from different feeding guilds, attack different tissues at different developmental stages and have revealed different traits that are essential for plant survival. The over-arching take-home message of this talk is lifted from the playbook of the two founders of the discipline of Chemical Ecology (Thomas Eisner and Jerrold Meinwald): the irreplaceable value of nature preserves as laboratories for the study of gene function.
Baldwin, I.T. (2016). Studying a Plant’s Ecological Interactions in the Genomics Era: The Story of Nicotiana attenuata. Video Talk on iBiology.