Both Gas Chromatography and an Electronic Nose Reflect Chemical Polymorphism of Juniper Shrubs Browsed or Avoided by Sheep

Gábor Markó, Ildikó Novák, Jeno Bernáth, Vilmos Altbäcker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Chemical polymorphism may contribute to variation in browsing damage by mammalian herbivores. Earlier, we demonstrated that essential oil concentration in juniper, Juniperus communis, was negatively associated with herbivore browsing. The aim of the present study was to characterize the volatile chemical composition of browsed and non-browsed J. communis. By using either gas chromatography with flame ionization detection (GC-FID) or an electronic nose device, we could separate sheep-browsed or non-browsed juniper shrubs by their essential oil pattern and complex odor matrix. The main components of the essential oil from J. communis were monoterpenes. We distinguished three chemotypes, dominated either by α-pinene, sabinene, or δ-3-carene. Shrubs belonging to the α-pinene- or sabinene-dominated groups were browsed, whereas all individuals with the δ-3-carene chemotype were unused by the local herbivores. The electronic nose also separated the browsed and non-browsed shrubs indicating that their odor matrix could guide sheep browsing. Responses of sheep could integrate the post-ingestive effects of plant secondary metabolites with sensory experience that stems from odor-phytotoxin interactions. Chemotype diversity could increase the survival rate in the present population of J. communis as certain shrubs could benefit from relatively better chemical protection against the herbivores.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-713
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2011


  • Chemical polymorphism
  • Chemotype
  • Electronic nose
  • Essential oil
  • Gas chromatography-flame ionization detection (GC-FID)
  • Juniperus communis
  • Odor
  • Ovis aries
  • Sheep
  • α-pinene
  • δ-3-carene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry

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