, Volume 166, Issue 1, pp 175-186
Date: 04 Nov 2010

Intraspecific plant chemical diversity and its relation to herbivory

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Several aromatic plant species are well known for their high intraspecific variation in terpene composition. Within these species, different chemotypes can be distinguished, which are characterised by one major metabolite and distinct satellite compounds in lower abundance. Such intraspecific differences in plant quality should have major effects on herbivorous insects but may also be partly shaped by their feeding activities. In the present study, the effects of selected Tanacetum vulgare L. chemotypes on herbivore presence and preferences were investigated, and the naturally occurring diversity of T. vulgare was explored at a small spatial scale. A distinct distribution pattern of aphids and miners was found on different chemotypes of different origin of T. vulgare, with species-specific preferences of different herbivorous species. Larvae of two generalist noctuid species performed worse on most chemotypes of T. vulgare than on other plant species. Furthermore, the specific terpene composition of T. vulgare influenced larval development of these two generalist species. The naturally occurring chemical diversity of T. vulgare plants in an area smaller than 3 km2 was extremely high, exhibiting 14 different chemotypes. Several individual patches of T. vulgare consisted of more than one chemotype. In conclusion, the existing chemotypical pattern of T. vulgare plants leads to a species-specific distribution of herbivores but may in turn be the result of contrasting selection pressures of various specialist and generalist herbivores.

Communicated by Phyllis Coley.