The many wonders of poop. The next time your kids talk about it, which most kids at some time will, direct their conversation to the wonderful world of insects.
Leftover poop confuses plant into letting insect larvae feed on it. In the new study, the researchers collected the caterpillar frass and turned it into an extract, which they applied to wounded corn leaves. They found that in leaf tissue treated with the fecal extract for 24 hours, the plant switched off its herbivore defense genes, but flipped on its pathogen defense genes, which inhibit the growth of pathogenic fungi or bacteria. In most plants, the two pathways can’t be turned on at the same time. That’s because a defense hormone called salicylic acid (SA), which controls the pathogen defense pathway, inhibits the production of another defense hormone—jasmonic acid (JA)—that controls the herbivore defense pathway. READ