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    Tree voles are dietary specialists, feeding almost exclusively on conifer needles and bark. They reduce their exposure to conifer chemical defenses by physically removing resin ducts from many needles before ingesting the remaining tissue. The portion of needle removed differs among tree species, depending on the location of the resin ducts. To evaluate the amount of resin avoided by this behavior, we removed the resin ducts from Douglas-fir, Western Hemlock, and Sitka Spruce needles and used gas chromatography to compare volatile resin concentrations in needles with and without the resin ducts removed. Needle tissues without resin ducts contained no terpenoid resin, demonstrating that tree voles can regulate the nutritional quality of their diet by controlling the amount of resin ingested. We suggest that differences in the physical structure (and possibly chemical composition of terpenes) of the needles make it difficult for voles to easily switch between tree hosts.

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    Kelsey, Rick G.; Forsman, Eric D.; Swingle, James K. 2009. Terpenoid resin distribution in conifer needles with implications for red tree vole, Arborimus longicaudus, foraging. The Canadian Field-Naturalist. 123: 12-18.


    Red Tree Vole, Arborimus longicaudus, terpenoid resins, resin ducts, plant-herbivore interactions, Oregon

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