Above, Lydia Truitt adds snails to bioassay cups.
An Investigation of Herbivory on the Invasive Grass Phragmites australis subspecies australis
Student: Lydia Truitt (Dept. of Biological Sciences)
Faculty Adviser: Cynthia Kicklighter (Dept. of Biological Sciences)
The ingress of invasive species often results in ecological damage and reduced biological diversity. The Eurasian marsh grass Phragmites australis subspecies australis is one of Maryland's most successful invaders in both terrestrial and wetland areas. Previous research has determined that Phragmites uses a chemical defense to deter snail herbivory by decreasing palatability, but it is unknown how Phragmites may defend itself from other herbivores. Choice feeding bioassays were used to investigate the effectiveness of Phragmites' structural and chemical defenses for an array of herbivores, including the Periwinkle Snail (Littoraria irrorata), Dusky Slug (Arion subfuscus), and Mealy Plum Aphid (Hyalopterus pruni). In addition, because herbivore grazing can increase the production of plant defenses; we grew Phragmites in the absence or presence of snails. The use of chemical separation techniques continues in an effort to identify the responsible chemical(s) used by Phragmites to deter snail herbivory.