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Olfactory selection of Plantago lanceolata by snails declines with seedling age

Hanley, M. E., Girling, R., Felix, A. E., Olliff, E. D., Newland, P. L. and Poppy, G. M. (2013) Olfactory selection of Plantago lanceolata by snails declines with seedling age. Annals of Botany, 112 (4). pp. 671-676. ISSN 1095-8290

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1093/aob/mct003


Background and Aims Despite recent recognition that (1) plant–herbivore interactions during the establishment phase, (2) ontogenetic shifts in resource allocation and (3) herbivore response to plant volatile release are each pivotal to a comprehensive understanding of plant defence, no study has examined how herbivore olfactory response varies during seedling ontogeny. Methods Using a Y-tube olfactometer we examined snail (Helix aspersa) olfactory response to pellets derived from macerated Plantago lanceolata plants harvested at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 weeks of age to test the hypothesis that olfactory selection of plants by a generalist herbivore varies with plant age. Plant volatiles were collected for 10 min using solid-phase microextraction technique on 1- and 8-week-old P. lanceolata pellets and analysed by gas chromatography coupled with a mass spectrometer. Key Results Selection of P. lanceolata was strongly negatively correlated with increasing age; pellets derived from 1-week-old seedlings were three times more likely to be selected as those from 8-week-old plants. Comparison of plant selection experiments with plant volatile profiles from GC/MS suggests that patterns of olfactory selection may be linked to ontogenetic shifts in concentrations of green leaf volatiles and ethanol (and its hydrolysis derivatives). Conclusions Although confirmatory of predictions made by contemporary plant defence theory, this is the first study to elucidate a link between seedling age and olfactory selection by herbivores. As a consequence, this study provides a new perspective on the ontogenetic expression of seedling defence, and the role of seedling herbivores, particularly terrestrial molluscs, as selective agents in temperate plant communities.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Sustainable Land Management > Centre for Agri-environmental Research (CAER)
ID Code:39612
Publisher:Oxford University Press

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