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Sexual and genotypic variation in terpene quantitative and qualitative profiles in the dioecious shrub Baccharis salicifolia.


Terpenoids are secondary metabolites produced in most plant tissues and are often considered toxic or repellent to plant enemies. Previous work has typically reported on intra-specific variation in terpene profiles, but the effects of plant sex, an important axis of genetic variation, have been less studied for chemical defences in general, and terpenes in particular. In a prior study, we found strong genetic variation (but not sexual dimorphism) in terpene amounts in leaves of the dioecious shrub Baccharis salicifolia. Here we build on these findings and provide a more in-depth analysis of terpene chemistry on these same plants from an experiment consisting of a common garden with male (N = 19) and female (N = 20) genotypes sourced from a single population. Our goal in the present study was to investigate quantitative and qualitative differences in terpene profiles associated with plant sex and genotypic variation. For this, we quantified leaf mono- and sesquiterpene amount, richness, and diversity (quantitative profile), as well as the composition of compounds (qualitative profile). We found no evidence of sexual dimorphism in monoterpene or sesquiterpene profiles. We did, however, find significant genotypic variation in amount, diversity, and composition of monoterpenes, but no effects on sesquiterpenes. These findings indicated that genotypic variation in terpene profiles largely surpassed variation due to sexual dimorphism for the studied population of this species.

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