, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 543-552

Courtship pheromone production and body size as correlates of larval diet in males of the arctiid moth,Utetheisa ornatrix

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Abstract

Hydroxydanaidal, the corematal courtship pheromone of maleUtetheisa ornatrix, shows pronounced quantitative variation in natural populations of the moth. Males that, as larvae, fed on seed-bearing rather than immature food plants (Crotalaria spectabilis orC. mucronata) produce higher levels of hydroxydanaidal. Such males also have higher systemic loads of pyrrolizidine alkaloid, the known metabolic precursor of hydroxydanaidal, whichUtetheisa sequester from their larval diet and which is concentrated in the seeds ofCrotalaria. Males raised on seed-bearing plants also achieve higher adult weight. In the context of sexual selection, therefore, femaleUtetheisa could, through assessment of male hydroxydanaidal levels, gauge both the alkaloid content and body weight of their suitors.