Associate Research Scientist

Departments of Chemistry and Soil, Water & Environmental Science

Leif Abrell



What's New


Physical processes and real-time chemical measurement of the insect olfactory environment.
Jeffrey A. Riffell & Leif Abrell & John G. Hildebrand
J. Chem. Ecol. (2008) 34:837–853

This review examines the physical processes that create a dynamic olfactory environment, and some of the analytical technologies available to characterize those behavior-inducing chemical signals at temporal scales equivalent to the olfactory processing in insects.


Floral trait associations in hawkmoth-specialized and mixed pollination systems: Datura wrightii and Agave spp. in the Sonoran Desert

Communicative & Integrative Biology, 2008, 1.

Variation in floral traits including odor, color, and morphology, demonstrate the selective pressures imposed by specific pollinator taxa, such as insects and birds. In southern Arizona, Manduca (Sphingidae) hawkmoths are associated with Datura wrightii (Solanaceae) at both the larval (herbivore) and adult (nectar feeding) stages. However during most of the summer Manduca feeds on “bat-adapted” Agave spp. (Agaveacea) flowers, and only use Datura when it is at peak bloom. Manduca’s nectar-host use appears to be mediated through innate odor preferences and olfactory learning; they prefer Datura’s “hawkmoth-adapted” traits, which facilitate the maintenance of their coevolutionary relationship, yet they are flexible enough to explore and learn to utilize novel resources, such as agave. Here we hypothesize that the differences in flower phenotype between two closely related Sonoran Desert agave species may be associated with the importance of hawkmoths relative to bats.


University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ 85721 USA

abrell at 


Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., Mar 4, 2008

Behavioral consequences of innate preferences and olfactory learning in hawkmoth-flower interactions

Riffell, J.A., Alarcón, R., Abrell, L.,  Davidowitz, G., Bronstein, J.L., Hildebrand, J.G.

Chip's photo on the cover!








































•     Behavioral consequences of innate preferences and olfactory learning in hawkmoth-flower interactions. Riffell, J.A., Alarcon, R., Abrell, L., Davidowitz, G., Bronstein, J.L., Hildebrand, J.G. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 2008, 105, 3404-3409..

•     Sugar synthesis from a gas phase formose reaction. Jalbout, A.F., Abrell, L., Adamowicz, L., Polt, R., Apponni, A.J., Ziurys, L., Astrobiology 2007, 7, 433-442.

•     Structure and function of Dufour gland pheromones from the crazy ant Paratrechina longicornis. Witte, V., Abrell, L., Attygalle, A.B., Wu, X., Meinwald, J. Chemoecology 2007, 17, 63-69.

•     Individual variation in alkaloid content of poison frogs of Madagascar (Mantella; Mantellidae). Clark, V.C., Rakotomalala, V., Ramilijaona, O., Abrell, L., Fisher, B.L., J. Chemical Ecology 2006, 32, 2219-2233.

•     Formaldehyde in comets C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp), C/2002 T7 (LINEAR), and C/2001 Q4 (NEAT): Investigating the cometary origin of H2CO. Milam, S.N., Remijan, A.J., Womack, M., Abrell, L., Ziurys, L.M., Wyckoff, S., Apponi, A.J., Friedel, D.N., Snyder, L.E., Veal, J.M., Palmer, P., Woodney, L.M., A'Hearn, M.F., Forster, J.R., Wright, M.C.H., de Pater, I., Choi, S., Gesmundo, M. Astrophys. J. 2006, 649, 1169-1177.

•     Drought effect on isoprene production and consumption in Biosphere 2 tropical rainforest. Pegoraro, E., Rey, A., Abrell, L., van Haren, J., Lin, G. Global Change Biology 2006, 12, 456-469.

•     Effect of elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 on oviposition behavior of Manduca sexta moths. Abrell, L., Guerenstein, P.G., Mechaber, L.M., Stange, G., Christensen, T., Nakanishi, K., Hildebrand, J.G., Global Change Biology 2005, 11, 1272-1282.

•     Volatile organic compounds as signals in a plant-herbivore system: Electrophysiological responses in olfactory sensilla of the moth Cactoblastis cactorum. Pophof, B., Stange, G. Abrell, L. Chemical Senses 2005, 30, 51-68.

•     The effect of elevated atmospheric CO2 and drought on sources and sinks of isoprene in a temperate and tropical rainforest mesocosm. Pegoraro, E., Abrell, L. Van Haren, J., Barron-Gafford, G.(THE DUDE), Grieve, K.A., Malhi, Y., Murthy, R., Lin, G. Global Change Biol. 2005, 11, 1234-1246.

•     Microphysiometric measurement of PAF receptor responses to ginkgolides. Krane, S., Kim, S.R., Abrell, L.M., Nakanishi, K. Helvetica Chimica Acta 2003, 86, 3776-3786.

•     Conformational flexibility of ouabain and its biological implication: observations with ouabain 1,5,19- and 1,11,19-phosphates. Kawamura, A., Abrell, L. M., Maggiali, F., Berova, N., Nakanishi, K., Labutti, J., Magil, S., Haupert, G. T. Jr., Hamlyn, J. M. Biochemistry 2001, 40, 5835-5844.

•     New hirsutane based sesquiterpenes from salt water cultures of a marine sponge-derived fungus and the terrestrial fungus Coriolus consors. Wang, G.-Y.-S., Abrell, L. M., Avelar, A., Borgeson, B. M., Crews, P. Tetrahedron 1998, 54 7335-7342.

•     A new polyketide, secocurvularin, from the salt water culture of a sponge derived fungus. Abrell, L. M., Borgeson, B., Crews, P. Tetrahedron Lett. 1996, 37, 8983-8984.

•     Chloro polyketides from the cultured fungus (Aspergillus) separated from a marine sponge. Abrell, L. M., Borgeson, B., Crews, P. Tetrahedron Lett. 1996, 37, 2331-2334.

•     Chloriolins A–C, chlorinated sesquiterpenes produced by fungal cultures separated from a Jaspis marine sponge. Cheng, X.-C., Varoglu, M., Abrell, L., Crews, P., Lobkovsky, E., Clardy, J. J. Org. Chem. 1994, 59, 6344-6348.

•     New nectriapyrones by salt water culture of a fungus separated from an indo-pacific sponge. Abrell, L., Cheng, X.-C., Crews, P. Tetrahedron Lett. 1994, 35, 9159-9160.

•     The structures and stereochemistry of cytotoxic sesquiterpene quinones from Dactylospongia elegans. Rodríguez, J., Quiñoá, E., Riguera, R., Peters, B. M., Abrell, L. M., Crews, P. Tetrahedron 1992, 48, 6667-6680.