, Volume 80, Issue 4, pp 507–512

Differential effect of tannic acid on two tree-feeding Lepidoptera: implications for theories of plant anti-herbivore chemistry

  • David N. Karowe
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF00380074

Cite this article as:
Karowe, D.N. Oecologia (1989) 80: 507. doi:10.1007/BF00380074


Feeding efficiencies of ultimate instar larvae of two polyphagous tree-feeding Lepidoptera, Malacosoma disstria (Lasiocampidae) and Orgyia leucostigma (Liparidae), were measured on artificial diets containing from 0% to 8% tannic acid. Relative growth rate (RGR) of O. leucostigma was not affected by up to 8% tannic acid, suggesting that O. leucostigma has evolved an effective counteradaptation to hydrolyzable tannins. In contrast, as little as 0.5% tannic acid caused a significant reduction in RGR of M. disstria, due both to reduced efficiency of conversion of digested food (ECD) and reduced relative consumption rate (RCR), and caused a significant increase in mortality during the pupal stage. Moreover, when reared from hatching on tannin-containing diets, no M. disstria larvae survived past the fourth instar.

Although tannins are commonly referred to as “digestibility-reducing substances”, tannic acid did not reduce the ability of M. disstria or O. leucostigma larvae to digest either the whole diet or nitrogen contained in the diet. For M. disstria, tannic acid acts as a toxin and a feeding deterrent, but not as a digestibility-reducing substance. Growing evidence that tannins commonly act as toxins warrants a reassessment of their role in anti-herbivore chemistry.

Key words

Tannic acid Nutritional ecology Malacosoma disstria Orgyia leucostigma Toxin 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • David N. Karowe
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations