Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 949-972

First online:

Male sex pheromone of a giant danaine butterfly,Idea leuconoe

  • R. NishidaAffiliated withPesticide Research Institute, Kyoto University
  • , S. SchulzAffiliated withInstitut für Organische Chemie, Universität Hamburg
  • , C. S. KimAffiliated withDepartment of Bioresources Science, Faculty of Agriculture, Kochi University
  • , H. FukamiAffiliated withFaculty of Sciences and Engineering, Ritsumeikan University
  • , Y. KuwaharaAffiliated withPesticide Research Institute, Kyoto University
  • , K. HondaAffiliated withFaculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University
  • , N. HayashiAffiliated withFaculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University

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Males of a giant danaine butterfly,Idea leuconoe, display hairpencils during courtship. The females were visually attracted to and olfactorily arrested by an artificial butterfly model to which male hairpencil extracts were added. The hairpencil extracts contained a complex mixture of volatiles, including pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA) derivatives (danaidone, viridifloric β-lactone), aromatics (phenol,p-cresol, benzoic acid), terpenoids (geranyl methyl thioether, (E,E)-farnesol), a series of γ-lactones (6-hydroxy-4-undecanolides and its homologs), hydrocarbons [(Z)-9-tricosene, etc.], and several compounds with higher molecular weight. A mixture of the major volatiles applied to a butterfly dummy strongly elicited an abdomen-curling acceptance posture in females. Viridifloric β-lactone and danaidone induced significant electroantennogram responses on the female's antennae, suggesting their principal role together with other hairpencil components as a sex pheromone to seduce females.I. leuconoe males seem to acquire the precursor for both of the PA fragments from the host plant,Parsonsia laevigata (Apocynaceae), during the larval stage; thereby they do not show pharmacophagous behavior towards PA-containing plants during the adult stage. However, males are pharmacophagously attracted to and feed on a number of simple phenolic compounds in a manner similar to other danaine species towards PAs. Wild males sequester one of the phagostimulants, (−)-mellein, in the hairpencils in varying quantities. Phenolic compounds incorporated in the hairpencils may act primarily as warning odors linked with the defensive PAs present in the body tissues.

Key Words

Lepidoptera Danainae Idea leuconoe hairpencil pheromone Parsonsia laevigata pyrrolizidine alkaloid mellein defense