|Authors||Iason, G.R., O'Reilly-Wapstra, J.M., Brewer, M.J., Summers, R.W. and Moore, B.D.|
|Publication details||Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366, 1337-1345.|
|Keywords||coevolution, diversity, plant-secondary metabolites, selection|
A central issue in our understanding of the evolution of the diversity of plant secondary metabolites (PSMs) is whether or not compounds are functional, conferring an advantage to the plant, or non-functional. We examine the hypothesis that the diversity of monoterpene PSMs within a plant species (Scots pine Pinus sylvestris) may be explained by different compounds acting as defences against high-impact herbivores operating at different life stages. We also hypothesise that pairwise coevolution, with uncorrelated interactions, is more likely to result in greater PSM diversity, than diffuse coevolution. We tested whether up to 13 different monoterpenes in Scots pine were inhibitory to herbivory by slugs (Arion ater), bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus), red deer (Cervus elaphus) and capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), each of which attack trees at a different life stage. Plants containing more α-pinene were avoided by both slugs and capercaillie which may act as reinforcing selective agents for this dominant defensive compound. Herbivory by red deer and capercaillie were respectively weakly negatively associated with δ3-carene, and strongly negatively correlated with the minor compound β-ocimene. Three of the four herbivores are likely contributory selective agents on some of the terpenes, and thus maintain some, but by no means all, of the phytochemical diversity in the species. The correlated defensive function of α-pinene, against slugs and capercaillie is consistent with diffuse coevolutionary processes.