Monoterpene Effect on Feeding Choice by Deer
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A previous study showed that Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) consumption was negatively correlated with monoterpene content in western redcedar (Thuja plicata). To test whether these monoterpenes were deterrent to Sitka black-tailed deer, we performed feeding choice experiments with four hydrocarbon (sabinene, myrcene, α-pinene, and d + l-limonene) and one oxygenated (α,β-thujone) monoterpene solution at their highest natural concentration in western redcedar foliage. To test whether deer response was species specific, we ran similar experiments on European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and rusa deer (Cervus timorensis russa). In all experiments, monoterpenes were repellent. Solutions with α,β-thujone, the major monoterpene in redcedar leaves, were the most repellent of the solutions tested. We then analyzed how black-tailed and roe deer responded to (1) an increase in concentration of the monoterpenes with the weakest repellent effects (hydrocarbon monoterpenes) and (2) a decrease in concentration of the monoterpene with strongest effect (α,β-thujone). Repellency tended to increase with concentration for hydrocarbon monoterpenes, but remained strong for α,β-thujone. As wild deer regularly feed on plants containing monoterpenes, this raises the question as to how the animals deal with these molecules.
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