J Syst Evol ›› 2023, Vol. 61 ›› Issue (3): 465-486.DOI: 10.1111/jse.12933

• Review • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Plant scent and plant-insect interactions—Review and outlook from a macroevolutionary perspective

Orlando Schwery1,2,3*, Breanna N. Sipley4, Mariana P. Braga5,6,7, Yan Yang8, Roberto Rebollo9, and Pengjuan Zu9,10*   

  1. 1 New Mexico Consortium, 4200 W. Jemez Rd, Suite 301, Los Alamos, NM 87544, USA
    2 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, 875 Perimeter Dr. MS 3051, Moscow, ID 83844, USA
    3 Department of Biological Sciences, Southeastern Louisiana University, 2400 N. Oak St, Hammond, LA 70402, USA
    4 Program for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA
    5 Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA
    6 Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
    7 Helsinki Life Science Institute, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
    8 Key Laboratory of Genetics and Germplasm Innovation of Tropical Special Forest Trees and Ornamental Plants, Ministry of Education, College of Forestry, Hainan University, Haikou 570228, P. R. China
    9 Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, Schmelzbergstrasse 9, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland
    10 Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology(Eawag), Seestrasse 79, CH-6047 Kastanienbaum, Switzerland
    *Authors for correspondence. Orlando Schwery. Email:schwery.macroevo@pm.me;Pengjuan Zu. Email:pengjuan.zu@gmail.com
  • Received:2022-04-10 Revised:2022-10-31 Online:2022-11-17 Published:2023-05-01

Abstract: The astonishing diversity of plants and insects and their entangled interactions are cornerstones in terrestrial ecosystems. Co-occurring with species diversity is the diversity of plant secondary metabolites (PSMs). So far, their estimated number is more than 200 000 compounds, which are not directly involved in plant growth and development but play important roles in helping plants handle their environment including the mediation of plant-insect interactions. Here, we use plant volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a key olfactory communication channel that mediates plant-insect interactions, as a showcase of PSMs. In spite of the cumulative knowledge of the functional, ecological, and microevolutionary roles of VOCs, we still lack a macroevolutionary understanding of how they evolved with plant-insect interactions and contributed to species diversity throughout the long coevolutionary history of plants and insects. We first review the literature to summarize the current state-of-the-art research on this topic. We then present various relevant types of phylogenetic methods suitable to answer macroevolutionary questions on plant VOCs and suggest future directions for employing phylogenetic approaches in studying plant VOCs and plant-insect interactions. Overall, we found that current studies in this field are still very limited in their macroevolutionary perspective. Nevertheless, with the fast-growing development of metabolome analysis techniques and phylogenetic methods, it is becoming increasingly feasible to integrate the advances of these two areas. We highlight promising approaches to generate new testable hypotheses and gain a mechanistic understanding of the macroevolutionary roles of chemical communication in plant-insect interactions.

Key words: coevolution, herbivore, macroevolution, phylogenetic methods, plant-insect interaction, pollinator, volatile organic compounds