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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Population dynamics of the Teak defoliator (Hyblaea puera Cramer) in Nilambur teak plantations using Randomly Amplified Gene Encoding Primers (RAGEP)

N Chandrasekhar1, TV Sajeev2, VV Sudheendrakumar2 and Moinak Banerjee1*

Author Affiliations

1 Human Molecular Genetics Lab, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Poojapura, Trivandrum, Kerala- 695012, India

2 Division of Entomology, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Kerala- 680653, India

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BMC Ecology 2005, 5:1  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-5-1

Published: 2 February 2005

Abstract

Background

The Teak defoliator (Hyblaea puera) is a pest moth of teak woodlands in India and other tropical regions (e.g. Thailand) and is of major economic significance. This pest is of major concern as it is involved in complete defoliation of trees during the early part of the growing season. Defoliation does not kill teak trees, but it results in huge amount of timber loss. Teak defoliator outbreaks are a regular annual feature in most teak plantations in India and it is extremely difficult to predict the exact time and place of occurrence of these outbreaks. Evidence from the study of the population dynamics of H. puera indicated habitual, short range movements of emerging moth populations, suggesting that these populations have spread to larger areas, generation after generation, affecting the entire teak plantations. We were therefore interested in investigating the temporal and spatial relationship among various population groups in Nilambur, Kerala (India) and address the cause of outbreak at the landscape level.

Results

The populations were classified into 'endemic', 'epicenter' and 'epidemic' populations based on the time of occurrence and size of infestation. We devised a novel method of screening nuclear and mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms using Randomly Amplified Gene Encoding Primers (RAGEP). We have used this method extensively to evaluate the species specificity, reproducibility and to discriminate among the three different characterised populations of teak defoliator.

Conclusions

This method also allowed us to comment with some certainty that the endemic teak defoliator, H. puera do not play a major role in contributing to large-scale infestations. With respect to the hypotheses put forward regarding the origin of outbreaks of the moth, this study confirms the role of migration in outbreak causation, while negating the belief that endemic populations aggregate to cause an epidemic.