Chemicals on plant surfaces as a heretofore unrecognized, but ecologically informative, class for investigations into plant defence

Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
Eric F LoPresti


Plants produce and utilize a great diversity of chemicals for a variety of physiological and ecological purposes. Many of these chemicals defend plants against herbivores, pathogens and competitors. The location of these chemicals varies within the plant, some are located entirely within plant tissues, others exist in the air- (or water-) space around plants, and still others are secreted onto plant surfaces as exudates. I argue herein that the location of a given defensive chemical has profound implications for its ecological function; specifically, I focus on the characteristics of chemical defences secreted onto plant surfaces. Drawing from a broad literature encompassing ecology, evolution, taxonomy and physiology, I found that these external chemical defences (ECDs) are common and widespread in plants and algae; hundreds of examples have been detailed, yet they are not delineated as a separate class from internal chemical defences (ICDs). I propose a novel typology for ECDs and, using existing literature, explore the ecological consequences of the hypothesized unique characteristics of ECDs. The axis of total or proportional investment in ECDs versus ICDs should be considered as one axis of investment by a plant, in the sa...Continue Reading


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