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Inbreeding alters volatile signalling phenotypes and influences tri-trophic interactions in horsenettle (Solanum carolinense L.)




Ecology Letters (2012) 15: 301–309


The ecological consequences of inter-individual variation in plant volatile emissions remain largely unexplored. We examined the effects of inbreeding on constitutive and herbivore-induced volatile emissions in horsenettle (Solanum carolinense L.) and on the composition of the insect community attracted to herbivore-damaged and undamaged plants in the field. Inbred plants exhibited higher constitutive emissions, but weaker induction of volatiles following herbivory. Moreover, many individual compounds previously implicated in the recruitment of predators and parasitoids (e.g. terpenes) were induced relatively weakly (or not at all) in inbred plants. In trapping experiments, undamaged inbred plants attracted greater numbers of generalist insect herbivores than undamaged outcrossed plants. But inbred plants recruited fewer herbivore natural enemies (predators and parasitoids) when damaged. Taken together, these findings suggest that inbreeding depression negatively impacts the overall pattern of volatile emissions – increasing the apparency of undamaged plants to herbivores, while reducing the recruitment of predatory insects to herbivore-damaged plants.