Apr 8, 2020

Phenotypic plasticity in chemical defence allows butterflies to diversify host use strategies

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Erika C. P. de CastroC. D. Jiggins

Abstract

Hostplant specialization is a major force driving ecological niche partitioning and diversification in insect herbivores. The cyanogenic defences of Passiflora plants keeps most herbivores at bay, but not larvae of Heliconius butterflies, which can both sequester and biosynthesize cyanogenic compounds. Here, we demonstrate that both Heliconius cydno chioneus, a host plant generalist, and H. melpomene rosina, a specialist, have remarkable plasticity in their chemical defence. When feeding on Passiflora species with cyanogenic compounds they can readily sequester, both species downregulate the biosynthesis of these compounds. In contrast, when fed on Passiflora plants that do not contain cyanogenic glucosides that can be sequestered, both species increase biosynthesis. This biochemical plasticity comes at a significant fitness cost for specialist like H. m. rosina, as growth rates for this species negatively correlate with biosynthesis levels, but not for a generalist like H. c. chioneus. In exchange, H. m rosina has increased performance when sequestration is possible as on its specialised hostplant. In summary, phenotypic plasticity in biochemical responses to different host plants offers these butterflies the ability to widen ...Continue Reading

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Mentioned in this Paper

Skin Turgor
Entire Vein
SPP2 dioxygenase
Reproduction
Water Vapor
Morphological
Equilibrium
Liliopsida
Vapor
Water Transport

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