Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 17, Issue 11, pp 2213–2221 | Cite as

Role of avian trigeminal sensory system in detecting coniferyl benzoate, a plant allelochemical

  • Walter J. Jakubas
  • J. Russell Mason


Coniferyl benzoate, a secondary metabolite found in quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and other plants, is an avian feeding deterrent of ecological and potential commercial importance. This study was conducted to determine if coniferyl benzoate is a trigeminal stimulant for birds and to ascertain if trigeminal chemoreception of coniferyl benzoate can mediate avian feeding behavior. Five European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) with bilateral nerve cuts (ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve) and four starlings that had sham surgeries were fed a commercial diet treated with coniferyl benzoate. Birds receiving bilateral nerve cuts ate significantly more feed than intact birds, indicating trigeminal detection of coniferyl benzoate and trigeminal mediation of feeding behavior. In the past, trigeminal chemoreception has not been recognized as important in the detection of plant secondary metabolites despite the irritant or astringent properties of a number of them.

Key Words

European starlings Stumus vulgaris ruffed grouse Bonasa umbellus phenylpropanoid feeding deterrent chemical senses 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter J. Jakubas
    • 1
  • J. Russell Mason
    • 2
  1. 1.Monell Chemical Senses CenterPhiladelphia
  2. 2.U. S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection ServiceDenver Wildlife Research Center, c/o Monell Chemical Senses CenterPhiladelphia

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