Plant defense against herbivory

Plant defense against herbivory or host-plant resistance (HPR) is a range of adaptations evolved by plants which improve their survival and reproduction by reducing the impact of herbivores. Plants can sense being touched,[1] and they can use several strategies to defend against damage caused by herbivores. Many plants produce secondary metabolites, known as allelochemicals, that influence the behavior, growth, or survival of herbivores. These chemical defenses can act as repellents or toxins to herbivores or reduce plant digestibility. Another defensive strategy of plants is changing their attractiveness. To prevent overconsumption by large herbivores, plants alter their appearance by changing their size or quality, reducing the rate at which they are consumed.[2]

Foxgloves produce toxic chemicals including cardiac and steroidal glycosides, deterring herbivory.

Other defensive strategies used by plants include escaping or avoiding herbivores at any time in any place  for example, by growing in a location where plants are not easily found or accessed by herbivores or by changing seasonal growth patterns. Another approach diverts herbivores toward eating non-essential parts or enhances the ability of a plant to recover from the damage caused by herbivory. Some plants encourage the presence of natural enemies of herbivores, which in turn protect the plant. Each type of defense can be either constitutive (always present in the plant) or induced (produced in reaction to damage or stress caused by herbivores).

Historically, insects have been the most significant herbivores, and the evolution of land plants is closely associated with the evolution of insects. While most plant defenses are directed against insects, other defenses have evolved that are aimed at vertebrate herbivores, such as birds and mammals. The study of plant defenses against herbivory is important, not only from an evolutionary viewpoint, but also for the direct impact that these defenses have on agriculture, including human and livestock food sources; as beneficial 'biological control agents' in biological pest control programs; and in the search for plants of medical importance.

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