Plant mines are structures with the form of a cavity caused by consumption of host plant tissue by the insect's miner larvae. Plant mines are more common in leaves, but in Cipocereus minensis, a species in which the leaves are modified spines, the miner activity is restricted to the stem. The aim of this paper was to document the morphological and anatomical differences in the infected and uninfected stems of C. minensis due to the feeding habit of the mining agent. Fresh tissue samples of non-mined and mined young stem of C. minensis were collected and examined in transverse sections. We hypothesize that the infection begins following mating when the females scratch the surface of the stem or while they feed on fruits and lay eggs, which subsequently develop into larvae, invading the cactus stem. The insect's miner larvae had mostly consumed the parenchyma tissue towards the center of the stem, and periderm formed along the entire path of the insect. This meristematic tissue or “wound periderm” is a common response for compartmentalization to isolate the damaged tissue, in this case the incubating chamber, in which the eggs will be placed. There were no signs of consumption of vascular tissue in the infested samples, further suggesting a compartmentalized infestation. The nest chamber was found in the stem pith region, with periderm surrounding an insect's miner pupa inside identified as a member of the Cerambycidae. The mining insect depends on a host plant to complete the life cycle; however, the nature of this partnership and the long-term effects of the insect on the plant tissue are unknown. The complex mechanisms by which herbivorous insects control the morphogenesis of the plant host are discussed. We propose that C. minensis has a recognition system to identify insect attack and evaluate the effectiveness of early response triggering compartmentalized defense mechanisms by protecting the injured area with a new layer of periderm.
Vol. 2012 • No. 17
Vol. 2012 • No. 17