Comprehensive Examination at CES on 14 October 2020 at 3:00 pm titled "Understanding the ecology of leaf galls induced by Gynaikothrips uzeli on Ficus benjamina" by Akshata G Bhat from CES, IISc
Plants and insects have co-evolved since the appearance of phytophagous insects and their interactions can be beneficial or detrimental. Galls are pathologically developed tissues or organs on the plant that arise mostly by hypertrophy and hyperplasia usually under the influence of parasitic organisms. Thus, leaf galls are the result of specific interaction of the leaves with the host and the galling organism and are an excellent example of parasitism of insects on plants.
Ficus benjamina, known as the weeping fig, is grown worldwide for aesthetic purposes in interior and outdoor landscapes. The thrips species Gynaikothrips uzeli is a major pest and exclusively associated with the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) across its cultivated spaces worldwide.
In my research, I will examine the cost incurred by F. benjamina upon leaf gall initiation by G. uzeli with reference to leaf area damaged, choice of infesting cells during gall initiation, and its impact on the ontogeny of both the leaf and the leaf gall. I will also investigate the host-selection behaviour of G. uzeli, inquilines present in the leaf gall microcosm, and natural enemies present within the leaf gall community. I will examine the distribution of laticifers (constitutive resistance) in galled and ungalled leaves, a little explored area in insect–gall interactions, and examine the effect of laticifers on leaf gall initiation.