herbivores

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Key to invasive plants’ success is not simply a matter of taste

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Photo of woolly bear caterpillar on leaf

The woolly bear caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella) is a generalist herbivore; it feeds on many of the trees and plants in the woods surrounding SERC. Photo: John Parker

Unless you are a famished hiker on the Appalachian Trail, chances are you have not given much thought to how the forest tastes. Plant flavor is an important area of study for ecologists examining invasive plants. A common theory holds that the success of kudzu and other exotic species is due to foreign biochemistry that makes them repugnant to native herbivores. In a new study published in PLoS ONE, scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md., have cast doubt on this popular but little-tested idea.
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