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CHEMOTYPIC Variation in Volatiles and Herbivory for Sagebrush.


Plants that are damaged by herbivores emit complex blends of volatile compounds that often cause neighboring branches to induce resistance. Experimentally clipped sagebrush foliage emits volatiles that neighboring individuals recognize and respond to. These volatiles vary among individuals within a population. Two distinct types are most common with either thujone or camphor as the predominate compound, along with other less common types. Individuals respond more effectively to cues from the same type, suggesting that some of the informative message is contained in the compounds that differentiate the types. In this study, we characterized the chemical profiles of the two common types, and we examined differences in their microhabitats, morphologies, and incidence of attack by herbivores and pathogens. Analysis by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry revealed that the camphor type had higher emissions of camphor, camphene, and tricyclene, while the thujone type emitted more α-thujone, β-thujone, (Z)-salvene, (E)-salvene, carvacrol, and various derivatives of sabinene. We were unable to detect any consistent morphological or microhabitat differences associated with the common types. However, plants of the thujone type had consistently higher rates of damage by chewing herbivores. One galling midge species was more common on thujone plants, while a second midge species was more likely to gall plants of the camphor type. The diversity of preferences of attackers may help to maintain the variation in volatile profiles. These chemical compounds that differentiate the types are likely to be informative cues and deserve further attention.

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