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Survival strategies in nature

e they are not normally found feeding on plants. However, some species of herbivores apparently "test" plants. When the plant doesn't respond to this testing by launching induced defenses, the plant joins the list of taxa on the herbivore's menu.

These experiments demonstrate that by disabling individual genes in native plants and planting these plants back into their native habitats one can learn much about the challenges that plants face in the real world and how communities and ecosystems function. These experiments also illustrate the scientific value of natural habitats. Natural areas have always been scientific laboratories for naturalists and ecologists.

With the responsible use of genetically modified native plants, the scientific value of natural habitats has the potential of greatly increasing, thereby providing another impetus for their preservation.

The native tobacco plant Nicotiana attenuata is one of the model systems used by the Department of Molecular Ecology at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena to study ecological interactions. This native plant was selected because it occupies a natural ecological niche which is most similar to the niche in which agricultural plants are grown. By studying how this native plant has adapted to life in this niche, the scientists hope to find means of increasing the ecological sophistication of our agricultural crops and develop lower input and more sustainable agricultural practices.


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Contact: Prof. Dr. Ian T. Baldwin
baldwin@ice.mpg.de
49-364-157-1101
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
5-Jul-2004


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