Responses of three mouse species to deterrent chemicals in the monarch butterfly. II. Taste tests using intact monarchs
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- Glendinning, J.I. Chemoecology (1990) 1: 124. doi:10.1007/BF01241653
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Peromyscus melanotis is the only one of three mouse species that eats monarch butterflies at their overwintering sites in Mexico. I tested two hypotheses: 1)P. aztecus avoids monarchs because of a bitter taste aversion to cardiac glycosides (CGs) and an inability to reject CG-rich body parts; 2)Reithrodontomys sumichrasti avoids monarchs principally because of a bitter taste aversion to the CGs. None of the species are sensitive to the toxic effects of ingested CGs. Feeding responses of laboratory-reared mice of each species to monarchs with low, medium and high CG concentrations were compared. BothP. aztecus andR. sumichrasti ate significantly fewer of all three types of monarchs thanP. melanotis. ForP. aztecus andR. sumichrasti, the number of monarchs eaten decreased with increasing CG concentration, whereas forP. melanotis, the number remained constant.Peromyscus melanotis andR. sumichrasti developed a feeding technique for rejecting the CG-laden cuticular material, which reduced the bitterness of ingested monarch material. However,R. sumichrasti displayed the technique significantly less often thanP. melanotis; andP. aztecus never developed it. I conclude that high taste sensitivity to CGs and less versatile food handling preventP. aztecus andR. sumichrasti from overcoming the monarch's chemical defenses.