Faculté des sciences

Variability in herbivore-induced odour emissions among maize cultivars and their wild ancestors (teosinte)

Gouinguené, Sandrine ; Degen, Thomas ; Turlings, Ted C. J.

In: Chemoecology, 2001, vol. 1, p. 9-16

Maize plants respond to caterpillar feeding with the release of relatively large amounts of specific volatiles, which are known to serve as cues for parasitoids to locate their host. Little is known about the genetic variability in such herbivore-induced plant signals and about how the emissions in cultivated plants compare to those of their wild relatives. For this reason we compared the total... More

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    Summary
    Maize plants respond to caterpillar feeding with the release of relatively large amounts of specific volatiles, which are known to serve as cues for parasitoids to locate their host. Little is known about the genetic variability in such herbivore-induced plant signals and about how the emissions in cultivated plants compare to those of their wild relatives. For this reason we compared the total quantity and the qualitative composition of the odour blend among eleven maize cultivars and five wild Zea (Poaceae) species (teosinte), as well as among the offspring of eight Zea mays mexicana plants from a single population. Young plants were induced to release volatiles by mechanically damaging the leaves and applying oral secretions of Spodoptera littoralis (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) caterpillars to the wounded sites. Volatiles were collected 7 h after treatment and subsequently analysed by gas chromatography. The total amounts of volatiles released were significantly different among maize cultivars as well as among the teosintes. Moreover, striking differences were found in the composition of the induced odour blends. Caryophyllene, for instance, was released by some, but not all varieties and teosintes, and the ratios among monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes varied considerably. The offspring of different mother plants of the Z. m. mexicana population showed some variation in the total amounts that they released, but the composition of the odour blend was very consistent within the population of this teosinte species. We discuss the ecological significance of these findings in terms of specificity and reliability of induced plant signals for parasitoids.