, Volume 71, Issue 2, pp 254-261

Interactions between oak tannins and parasite community structure: Unexpected benefits of tannins to cynipid gall-wasps

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Plant species vary tremendously in the number of phytophagous species they support. May (1979) and Price (1980) proposed that some of this variation may be due to variation in biochemical defenses. We find that variation between oak species in leaf tannin levels is positively correlated with 1) variation in the numbers of species of leaf-galling cynipid wasps those trees host; and 2) the density of individual galls per oak leaf. We hypothesize that leaf and gall tannins serve a protective function for cynipids, decreasing the amount of cynipid larval mortality due to fungal infestation. This defensive function would explain the observed positive relationships between oak tannin levels and cynipid diversity as well as cynipid abundance.