Foodplant effects on colour morphs of Eumorpha fasciata caterpillars (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae)

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Abstract

Caterpillars of the hawkmoth Eumorpha fasciata are highly polymorphic for colour, with green, pink, and pink-and-yellow forms in the second through fourth instars, and green and multicoloured forms in the fifth instar. Four years of field censuses on four foodplant species determined that all morphs were found on all plant species; morph frequencies were homogeneous on each plant species over time; and morph frequencies differed consistently among plant species. When larvae were reared from eggs on three of the hostplant species in the laboratory, differences in morph frequencies paralleled the census results. Thus foodplant quality is one factor affecting larval colour in E. fasciata. A literature survey reveals that foodplant effects on larval colouration may be widespread in the family Sphingidae, but most reports are anecdotal rather than experimental. The implications of this mechanism of colour determination are discussed.

Ancillary