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Oecologia. 2007 Oct;153(4):891-901. Epub 2007 Jun 26.

Heritable variation in the foliar secondary metabolite sideroxylonal in Eucalyptus confers cross-resistance to herbivores.

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  • 1School of Botany and Zoology, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia. Rose.Andrew@anu.edu.au


Plants encounter a broad range of natural enemies and defend themselves in diverse ways. The cost of defense can be reduced if a plant secondary metabolite confers resistance to multiple herbivores. However, there are few examples of positively correlated defenses in plants against herbivores of different types. We present evidence that a genetically variable chemical trait that acts as a strong antifeedant to mammalian herbivores of Eucalyptus also deters insect herbivores, suggesting a possible mechanism for cross-resistance. We provide field confirmation that sideroxylonal, an important antifeedant for mammalian herbivores, also determines patterns of damage by Christmas beetles, a specialist insect herbivore of Eucalyptus. In a genetic progeny trial of Eucalyptus tricarpa, we found significant heritabilities of sideroxylonal concentration (0.60), overall insect damage (0.34), and growth traits (0.30-0.53). Population of origin also had a strong effect on each trait. Negative phenotypic correlations were observed between sideroxylonal and damage, and between damage and growth. No relationship was observed between sideroxylonal concentration and any growth trait. Our results suggest that potential for evolution by natural selection of sideroxylonal concentrations is not strongly constrained by growth costs and that both growth and defense traits can be successfully incorporated into breeding programs for plantation trees.

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