Snails prefer it sweet: A multifactorial test of the metal defence hypothesis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Metal defence against insect herbivory in hyperaccumulator plants is well documented. However, there are contradictory results regarding protection against snails. According to the joint effects hypothesis, inorganic and organic defences cooperate in plant protection. To test this hypothesis, we explored the relationships between snail (Cantareus aspersus) feeding and multiple inorganic and organic leaf components in the Cd hyperaccumulator plant Noccaea praecox. Plants grouped by rosette size growing in nutrient solution supplemented or not with 50 μM Cd were offered to the snails. After 3 days of snail feeding, the plants and snails were analysed. In addition to Cd concentrations, we analysed leaves for nutritional factors (sugar and protein), defence-related compounds (glucosinolates, phenolics, tannins, salicylic acid and jasmonate) and essential mineral nutrients. Cadmium concentrations in the snails and in snail excrements were also analysed. Snails preferentially fed on plants grown without Cd. Medium-sized plants exposed to Cd were the least consumed. Snail excrements from this trial weighed less and had higher Cd concentrations than those from other treatments. Cadmium increased salicylate and jasmonate production. A positive relationship between jasmonate levels and the number of attacked leaves was found. Principal component analysis revealed that leaf sugar concentration was the main factor positively affecting snails' leaf consumption, while leaf Cd had a negative but weaker influence. In conclusion, leaf sugar concentration mainly governs snails' feeding preferences. High leaf Cd concentrations do not deter herbivores from attacking leaves, but they do reduce leaf consumption. Our results clearly support the joint effects hypothesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-218
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiologia Plantarum
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Animals
  • Biomass
  • Brassicaceae/metabolism
  • Herbivory/drug effects
  • Metals/toxicity
  • Plant Leaves/metabolism
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Snails/drug effects
  • Sugars/metabolism


Dive into the research topics of 'Snails prefer it sweet: A multifactorial test of the metal defence hypothesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this