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Silicon defence extends up the food chain


You are what you eat it seems – at least for carnivorous insects. Emerging evidence suggests that a lot of plants, especially grasses, acquire silicon from soil to defend themselves from insect herbivores. Grasses deposit silicon on their leaf surfaces, which the unlucky herbivores find difficult to digest –a bit like dropping your ice lolly at the beach and taking a mouthful. It doesn’t end there though; this study showed how carnivorous insects eating these insect herbivores also suffered adverse effects. It appears that silicon is a down to earth plant defence that ripples through the food chain.

Publication details:

Biology Letters

DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0912


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Dr James Ryalls

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