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Opting for Expiration: Efficacy of bioactive secondary compounds in affecting herbivore feeding preferences of medicinal Leguminosae species in Mo'orea, French Polynesia

Abstract

Secondary compounds, often found in medicinal plants, are believed to have evolved as chemical defenses for many species. These bioactive chemicals have been shown to protect the plant from their numerous insect predators and pathogens through a wide variety of mechanisms. The purpose of this study is to examine the effect these secondary compounds have on the amount of predation towards medicinal species. Looking at the amount of leaf herbivory and an antifungal bioassay of six species of Leguminosae, the main objective of the study was to find a correlation between predation and medicinal properties. Herbivore feeding preference appeared averse to medicinal leaves, although no relationship between leaf damage and yeast inhibition was found. A feeding experiment conducted using common herbivores inadvertently demonstrated the antifungal properties of the medicinal species, and gave further indication of an herbivore aversion to leaves with bioactive secondary compounds.

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