Cottontails and gopherweed: Anti-feeding compounds from a spurge
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Mammalian herbivores nearly never attack gopherweed, Euphorbia lathyris (Euphorbiaceae). To find the chemical principle responsible for the deterrent effect, we field-tested plant extracts in response-guided bioassays for antifeedant activity. We treated winter-dormant apple twigs with extract solutions and presented them to free-ranging eastern cottontails, Sylvilagus floridanus, at 3 different home ranges in Upstate New York during late winter. Extracts from all plant parts reduced feeding, measured as twig tips cut and amount of bark removed, but root extracts were most active. The bioassay led to isolation of putative antifeedant compounds from the root extract, a series of long-chain alkyl ferulates and gopherenediol, a new diterpenoid. Bioassay of docosanyl ferulate and gopherenediol demonstrated weak antifeedant activity. The bioassays are continuing.
KeywordsHome Range Root Extract Mammalian Herbivore Leafy Spurge Ferulate Medium
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