Some adaptations between Danaus plexippus and its food plant, with notes on Danaus chrysippus and Euploea core (Insecta: Lepidoptera)



Behaviour of the egg-laying Monarch in captivity suggests that the concentration and quality of cardiac glycosides in the food plant are not important oviposition cues. The presence of eggs (as previously noted by Urquhart, 1960) and larvae feeding on the food plant, act as mild deterrents.

The butterfly's emetic potency (see Table XIII(a)) can sometimes surpass that of the leaves of the host plant itself. Unidentified factors, providing the internal plant environment, are more important as cardiac glycoside storage stimulants than either the quantity or quality of the cardenolides present. In the laboratory D. plexippus oviposited preferentially on a plant with relatively low cardiac glycoside content, but which produced the most powerfully protected (emetic) adult.

Metabolic changes during the pharate pupal stage, but also, in the case of Euploea core, in the larval fifth instar, rather than larval sequestration, may account for the major increase or decrease in butterfly toxicity compared with that of the food plant.

Temperature does not affect the storage of cardenolides except indirectly by altering metabolic rate. There is no evidence to support the concept that current “physiological cost” of cardenolide storage is high. Like the toad, this butterfly can be assumed to have evolved an enzvmatic system well adjusted to the presence of cardenolides in its bodv tissues.