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Host Plant Suitability in a Specialist Herbivore, Euphydryas anicia (Nymphalidae): Preference, Performance and Sequestration

Bradley, Lauren E., Kelly, Caitlin A., Bowers, M. Deane
Journal of chemical ecology 2018 v.44 no.11 pp. 1051-1057
Castilleja, Euphydryas, Penstemon, butterflies, catalpol, diapause, herbivores, host plants, host preferences, insect larvae, oviposition, plant-insect relations, rearing, survival rate, Colorado
The checkerspot butterfly, Euphydryas anicia (Nymphalidae), specializes on plants containing iridoid glycosides and has the ability to sequester these compounds from its host plants. This study investigated larval preference, performance, and sequestration of iridoid glycosides in a population of E. anicia at Crescent Meadows, Colorado, USA. Although previous studies showed that other populations in Colorado use the host plant, Castilleja integra (Orobanchaceae), we found no evidence for E. anicia ovipositing or feeding on C. integra at Crescent Meadows. Though C. integra and another host plant, Penstemon glaber (Plantaginaceae), occur at Crescent Meadows, the primary host plant used was P. glaber. To determine why C. integra was not being used at the Crescent Meadows site, we first examined the host plant preference of naïve larvae between P. glaber and C. integra. Then we assessed the growth and survivorship of larvae reared on each plant species. Finally, we quantified the iridoid glycoside concentrations of the two plant species and diapausing caterpillars reared on each host plant. Our results showed that E. anicia larvae prefer P. glaber. Also, larvae survive and grow better when reared on P. glaber than on C. integra. Castilleja integra was found to contain two primary iridoid glycosides, macfadienoside and catalpol, and larvae reared on this plant sequestered both compounds; whereas P. glaber contained only catalpol and larvae reared on this species sequestered catalpol. Thus, although larvae are able to use C. integra in the laboratory, the drivers behind the lack of use at the Crescent Meadows site remain unclear.