Extraction and quantification of "condensed tannins" as a measure of plant anti-herbivore defence? Revisiting an old problem
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- Heil, M., Baumann, B., Andary, C. et al. Naturwissenschaften (2002) 89: 519. doi:10.1007/s00114-002-0366-3
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Contents of phenolic compounds in leaf extracts often serve as a measure of plant anti-herbivore defence. This method suffers from the multifunctionality of phenolics and from problems with their colorimetric quantification. Here we present further evidence for the pertinence of these problems. Contents of condensed tannins (CCT) were spectrophotometrically quantified in leaf extracts of 11 closely related mimosoid species, and Spodoptera littoralis caterpillars were reared on artificial diet containing these extracts. The relationship of CCT with caterpillar growth differed considerably among plant species, since both positive and negative correlations were detected. There was, however, a negative correlation of CCT with fungal spore germination, indicating a role of these compounds in resistance to fungi. Detailed knowledge on the structure and biological function of defensive compounds and on the overall composition of leaves is required to estimate a plant's defensive efficacy against a particular group of enemies.