Corymbia leaf oils, latitude, hybrids and herbivory: A test using common-garden field trials

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Abstract

Foliar oils, particularly monoterpenes, can influence the susceptibility of plants to herbivory. In plants, including eucalypts, monoterpenes are often associated with plant defence. A recent analysis revealed an increase in foliar oil content with increasing latitudinal endemism, and we tested this pattern using three eucalypt taxa comprising a latitudinal replacement cline. We also examined the relative concentrations of two monoterpenes (α-pinene and 1,8-cineole), for which meta-analyses also showed latitudinal variation, using hybrids of these three taxa with Corymbia torelliana. These, and pure C. torelliana, were then assessed in common-garden field plots for the abundance and distribution of herbivory by four distinct herbivore taxa. Differing feeding strategies among these herbivores allowed us to test hypotheses regarding heritability of susceptibility and relationships to α-pinene and 1,8-cineole. We found no support for an increase in foliar oil content with increasing latitude, nor did our analysis support predictions for consistent variation in α-pinene and 1,8-cineole contents with latitude. However, herbivore species showed differential responses to different taxa and monoterpene contents. For example, eriophyid mites, the most monophagous of our censused herbivores, avoided the pure species, but fed on hybrid taxa, supporting hypotheses on hybrid susceptibility. The most polyphagous herbivore (leaf blister sawfly Phylacteophaga froggatti) showed no evidence of response to plant secondary metabolites, while the distribution and abundance patterns of Paropsis atomaria showed some relationship to monoterpene yields.

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