EBIO graduate student Tobin Hammer and Professor Deane Bowers were recently featured on the cover of Oecologia. How are herbivorous insects able to subsist on a diet that is often rich in toxic chemical compounds? In this issue Hammer and Bowers outline the ‘Gut microbial facilitation hypothesis,’ arguing that symbioses with gut microorganisms may help insects overcome plant chemical defenses. Many bacteria and fungi in soil, leaf litter, and the mammalian gut withstand and degrade plant toxins but the importance of microbes to the ecology and evolutionary diversification of insect herbivores is just beginning to be unveiled. Shown is the caterpillar Citheronia lobesis consuming Spondias mombin leaves, which contain a variety of plant chemicals to potentially ward off insects.
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Photo: Tobin Hammer.