Defense Evolution Group

Plants produce a diversity of chemical compounds to defend themselves against herbivorous insects. Chemical diversity of plants encompasses functional as well as structural diversity, and both components affect the ecology and evolution of plant-herbivore interactions. While structural diversification evolves more readily, functional diversification offers potentially higher rewards to the plant in terms of escape from specialized herbivores. Plants in the genus Erysimum have undergone both types of diversification in recent evolutionary times. Using this group of species as a model system, we use a range of comparative methods and phylogenetic, transcriptomic, and metabolomic tools to study the role of chemical diversification on the evolution of this genus and its interactions with generalist and specialist herbivores.