Tree-Leaf Chemicals and Feeding Behavior of Arboreal Mammals in Seasonal Environment

  • Mutsumi ItoEmail author
  • Fumio Hayashi
Reference work entry
Part of the Reference Series in Phytochemistry book series (RSP)


Mammalian herbivores are considered to eat plants with high nutrition but to avoid those with harmful chemical components. Most species eat plants selectively, but some species develop tolerance to the harmful plant chemicals. Food selection occurs between tree species, conspecific trees, leaves within the same tree, and leaf parts. Leaf chemical components also differ in these hierarchical structures. However, the effects of plant chemicals on food selectivity are yet unknown in tree-leaf eating mammals such as arboreal primates, rodents, and marsupials, as compared with other mammals eating herbaceous plants, seeds, nuts, and fruits. Moreover, the effects of seasonal changes in leaf chemicals and the microscale distribution of chemicals within the single leaf have little examined. This chapter shows how tree-leaf chemicals affect feeding behavior of the arboreal mammals, also the Japanese giant flying squirrel as the case study, in their seasonal environments. This flying squirrel has a peculiar manner to eat only the central part of a single leaf. The measurements of the microscale distributions of chemicals within the single leaf and the seasonal changes in leaf chemicals of available trees in their habitat suggest that sugar concentration is an important factor affecting which species of trees they eat, and the total phenolic concentration affects which parts of the single leaf they eat.


Glucose Flying squirrels Food choice Quercus trees Secondary metabolites Total phenolics 



We wish to thank Noriko Tamura, Mayumi Shigeta, Nickie Seto, and Brianna Rico for assisting the field and some laboratory works. This study was partly supported by competitive research funding from the Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Tokyo Metropolitan University to FH in 2015 and by a Sasakawa Scientific Research Grant from the Japan Science Society to MI in 2016. MI was also supported by a Research Fellowship for Young Scientists of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in 2017–2019.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyTokyo Metropolitan UniversityTokyoJapan

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