Annals of Botany

Leaf mechanical traits in insect herbivory

Leaf mechanical traits deter insect herbivores, but little is known about the role of particular mechanical traits across feeding guilds.

Herbivores on a leaf
Concerto for Twelve Saxophones. Photo Olgierd Rudak / Flickr.

Caldwell et al. investigated feeding damage in relation to mechanical traits in mature leaves of shrubs and trees, finding that mechanical traits influenced feeding guilds differentially. Chewing damage correlated negatively with mechanical traits, with the strongest independent contribution by specific work (toughness) to shear. Mining damage did not correlate with mechanical traits, and sucker feeding density correlated positively. Knowing how mechanical traits influence insect feeding across guilds is important to our wider understanding of plant–herbivore interactions.