Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 90–100 | Cite as

Headspace Volatiles from 52 oak Species Advertise Induction, Species Identity, and Evolution, but not Defense

  • Ian S. Pearse
  • Wai S. Gee
  • John J. Beck


Leaf volatiles convey information about a plant to other organisms in their proximity. Despite increasing interest in understanding the relevance of volatile emissions for particular ecological interactions, there has been relatively little effort to assess generally what information volatile profiles transmit. We surveyed the volatile profiles of wounded and unwounded leaves of 52 oak (Quercus) species. We used phylogenetic comparison and multivariate techniques to assess in what circumstances oak individuals advertised their species identity, evolutionary history, direct defenses, or damage. We found that both species identity and evolutionary history were advertised when leaves were wounded, but species could not be differentiated by odor when leaves were not wounded. Various fatty-acid derivative compounds showed the strongest phylogenetic signal suggesting that they may best disclose taxonomic affiliations in oaks. We tested whether oak volatile composition or diversity advertised high defensive investment, but we found no evidence for this. Wounded leaves disclose much about an oak species’ identity and taxonomic affiliation, but unwounded leaves do not. This is consistent with the idea that volatile information is targeted toward natural enemy recruitment.


VOC Volatile Quercus Aposematic Green leaf volatiles Macroevolution 



Many thanks to Divya Donthi for performing compound verifications, to Nate Pope for advice on statistical analyses, and to Klaus Dragull for advice on analytical methods. The manuscript was improved by comments from Richard Karban, Kathy Hughes, and two anonymous reviewers.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (XLS 31 kb)
10886_2012_224_MOESM2_ESM.xls (202 kb)
ESM 2 (XLS 202 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department EntomologyUC DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.U. S. Department of AgriculturePlant Mycotoxin Research, Western Regional Research Center, Agricultural Research ServiceAlbanyUSA
  3. 3.Department Neurobiology and BehaviorCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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