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Origin and maintenance of chemical diversity in a species-rich tropical tree lineage [Nature Ecology & Evolution]

Keywords : evolutionary ecology, tropical ecology

par Frédéric Magné - publié le

Plant secondary metabolites play important ecological and evolutionary roles, most notably in the deterrence of natural enemies. The classical theory explaining the evolution of plant chemical diversity is that new defences arise through a pairwise co-evolutionary arms race between plants and their specialized natural enemies. However, plant species are bombarded by dozens of different herbivore taxa from disparate phylogenetic lineages that span a wide range of feeding strategies and have distinctive physiological constraints that interact differently with particular plant metabolites. How do plant defence chemicals evolve under such multiple and potentially contrasting selective pressures imposed by diverse herbivore communities ? To tackle this question, we exhaustively characterized the chemical diversity and insect herbivore fauna from 31 sympatric species of Amazonian Protieae (Burseraceae) trees.(...)

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