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Attract or Defend? Secondary Compounds among tissues in two species of Lupine (Fabaceae)

This plant-biology data analysis module compares concentrations of defensive alkaloid compounds among tissue types in two species of the flowering-plant Lupine (Fabaceae). Students practice with hypotheses, data visualization, analysis and...

Listed in Teaching Materials | resource by group HHMI BioInteractive Data Explorer FMN (2020)

Version 1.0 - published on 27 Sep 2020 doi:10.25334/HB9W-SE09 - cite this

Licensed under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International according to these terms



This 50- to 75-minute activity leads sophomore-level students through thinking about the possible roles of secondary compounds in plants and analyzing real data to address their predictions. Students consider the unique selective pressures facing plants (i.e., they often can’t move but must interact with the world around them) and relate this to the presence of secondary compounds. Students make hypotheses and predictions about how the presence of these chemical compounds might relate to interactions between the plant and its environment. In Microsoft Excel, students will explore the data with a series of figures and conduct ANOVAs to compare concentrations among tissues. Detailed instructions are provided for work in Excel, but some familiarity with the program will be important.

One fairly obvious result is that bad-tasting compounds are found in higher concentrations in tissues most vulnerable to herbivores and vital to survival/reproduction (flowers, stems, leaves). A less-obvious finding is that pollen has higher caffeine concentrations than other tissues. An optional extension activity leads students to investigate this potentially surprising result. 

Students should gain some appreciation for unique environmental selective pressures faced by plants, the roles of defensive and attractive compounds in plant tissues, practice formulating hypotheses and investigating predictions with real data, and experience interpreting statistical tests to address their predictions.


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HHMI BioInteractive Data Explorer FMN (2020)

HHMI BioInteractive Data Explorer FMN (2020) group image

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