Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 16, Issue 8, pp 2381-2392

First online:

Ecological implications of condensed tannin structure: A case study

  • T. P. ClausenAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, University of Alaska
  • , F. D. ProvenzaAffiliated withRange Science Department, Utah State University
  • , E. A. BurrittAffiliated withRange Science Department, Utah State University
  • , P. B. ReichardtAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, University of Alaska
  • , J. P. BryantAffiliated withInstitute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska

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Condensed tannins were isolated from bitterbnish (Purshia tridentata) and blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima). Structural analyses showed that both tannins were procyanidins of similar polymer length. The overall stereochemistries at C-3 and C-4, however, differed between the two tannins. These changes in stereochemistry resulted in blackbrush tannins being less preferred than bitterbrush tannins when offered to snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus). It is unlikely that differences in protein-precipitating abilities are the cause for the preference of the bitterbrush over the blackbrush tannins. Instead, we hypothesize that condensed tannins may be depolymerized and absorbed following ingestion. Differences in tannin structure can lead to different depolymerized products and rates of depolymerization, both of which may affect herbivore preferences.

Key words

condensed tannin procyanidin blackbrush bitterbrush plant defense