Arthropod-Plant Interactions

, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp 439–451 | Cite as

Chemical signatures affecting host choice in the Eucalyptus herbivore, Gonipterus sp. (Curculionidae: Coleoptera)

  • Marc Clement Bouwer
  • Bernard Slippers
  • Michael John Wingfield
  • Egmont Richard Rohwer
Original Paper


It is well known that herbivorous insects respond to host plant volatiles. Yet details of how these insects perceive the complex profile of volatiles from different potential host plants have not been studied for most insects. Gonipterus spp. are important pests of Eucalyptus worldwide, but differ in their preference for different species of this host. In this study, we consider whether host volatiles affect the host choice for a Gonipterus sp. and we characterize the response of the female insect to the volatile profiles from these hosts in an electro-antennographic experiment. We sampled volatiles from freshly damaged leaves of three Eucalyptus species and analysed the profiles by gas chromatography coupled to electro-antennography (GC-EAD) and gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Female weevils gave a mixed range of electro-physiological responses to volatile puffs from leaves of different tree species. This suggests that differences in volatile profiles of different trees play a role in how these beetles discriminate between potential hosts. GC-EAD analysis showed that responses were as complex as the volatile chemical compositions of the leaves. A number of these chemicals were identified, and responses were mostly due to general green leaf volatiles. This was also evident from the fact that the insects showed a markedly greater response to the total volatile profile from freshly damaged leaves for all species. The females of the Gonipterus sp. can therefore detect damaged leaves, which may indicate host quality. Host specificity information is further expected to lie in the relative differences in emission ratios and synergism between different host chemical compounds, rather than specific individual compounds.


Gas chromatography Electro-antennography Mass spectrometry Gonipterus scutellatus Eucalyptus Volatile compounds 



We are grateful to the members of the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP), the THRIP initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), South Africa and the National Research Foundation (NRF) for providing financial support for this study. We also thank Dr. Jeff Garnas for assistance with some of the statistical tests and for providing unpublished data pertaining to the identification of the Gonipterus sp. used in this study.

Supplementary material

11829_2014_9327_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (6 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 1 Non metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) plot based on the mass spectral integration data for the 16 compounds confirmed with reference standards for each species. The plot shows the Bray–Curtis distance rotated so that the variance is maximized on the first dimension. Numbers indicate compound identity as in Tables 2, 3 and 4. Stress ≈ 0 (PDF 5 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc Clement Bouwer
    • 1
  • Bernard Slippers
    • 2
  • Michael John Wingfield
    • 3
  • Egmont Richard Rohwer
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry, Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology InstituteUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Genetics, Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology InstituteUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa
  3. 3.Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology InstituteUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa
  4. 4.Department of ChemistryUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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