CHEMOECOLOGY

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 153–157

Chemical defense and aposematism: the case of Utetheisa galapagensis

  • Lázaro Roque-Albelo
  • Frank C. Schroeder 
  • William E. Conner
  • Alexander Bezzerides
  • E. Richard Hoebeke
  • Jerrold Meinwald
  • Thomas Eisner

DOI: 10.1007/s00012-002-8341-6

Cite this article as:
Roque-Albelo, L., , F., Conner, W. et al. Chemoecology (2002) 12: 153. doi:10.1007/s00012-002-8341-6

Summary.

The moth Utetheisa galapagensis (Lepidoptera, Arctiidae) is an endemic of the Galápagos Islands. Unlike other species of Utetheisa, which are gaudily aposematic, it is uniformly grayish in appearance. Our initial presumption that U. galapagensis lacks the plant-derived systemic pyrrolizidine alkaloids that account for the aposematism of its congeners was erroneous. U. galapagensis feeds on species of Tournefortia (Boraginaceae), one of which, T. rufo-sericeae, was found to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids (5% of dry weight). U. galapagensis of both sexes contain these compounds. The drabness of U. galapagensis may be attributable to the fact that the moth is nocturnal, unlike its aposematic congeners. Two additional species of Utetheisa from the Galápagos (U. devriesi, and U. perryi) are also non-aposematic. Whether the three Galápagos Utetheisa are primitively drab, or whether their cryptic condition is secondarily derived from an aposematic ancestry, remains unsettled.

Key words. Chemical defense — Arctiidae — pyrrolizidine alkaloids — Boraginaceae —Tournefortia 

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel, 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lázaro Roque-Albelo
    • 1
  • Frank C. Schroeder 
    • 2
  • William E. Conner
    • 3
  • Alexander Bezzerides
    • 4
  • E. Richard Hoebeke
    • 5
  • Jerrold Meinwald
    • 2
  • Thomas Eisner
    • 4
  1. 1.Charles Darwin Research Station, Casilla 17-01-3891, Quito, EcuadorEC
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Baker Laboratory, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USAUS
  3. 3.Department of Biology, Wake Forest University, P. O. Box 7325, Winston-Salem, NC 27109, USAUS
  4. 4.Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Seeley G. Mudd Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USAUS
  5. 5.Department of Entomology, Comstock Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USAUS