CHEMOECOLOGY

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 39–43

Shunning the night to elude the hunter: diurnal fireflies and the “femmes fatales”

  • Matthew Gronquist
  • Frank C. Schroeder
  • Helen Ghiradella
  • David Hill
  • Erin M. McCoy
  • Jerrold Meinwald
  • Thomas Eisner
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00049-005-0325-5

Cite this article as:
Gronquist, M., Schroeder, F.C., Ghiradella, H. et al. Chemoecology (2006) 16: 39. doi:10.1007/s00049-005-0325-5

Summary.

Lucidota atra, a diurnal firefly, shares possession of defensive steroids (lucibufagins or LBGs) with nocturnal fireflies of the genus Photinus. Photinus are protected against predators by their LBGs, but not against fireflies of the genus Photuris, the so-called firefly femmes fatales, which prey upon Photinus, thereby acquiring LBGs for their own defense. We propose that L. atra may have been prompted evolutionarily to become diurnal by the opportunity to avoid, thereby, being hunted by Photuris. Indeed, L. atra, if offered to Photuris, were eagerly devoured by the latter, which sequestered their LBG’s. In feeding on L. atra, Photuris may be driven by a gustatory affinity for LBGs. Persistent nocturnality might therefore have put L. atra at risk vis à vis Photuris. Diurnality freed the firefly from that risk, without compromising its defended status with respect to other predators. Possession of LBGs may in fact account for L. atra’s unacceptability to birds and spiders.

Key words.

Co-evolution bioluminescence lucibufagins chemical defense aggressive mimicry 

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Gronquist
    • 1
  • Frank C. Schroeder
    • 2
  • Helen Ghiradella
    • 3
  • David Hill
    • 4
  • Erin M. McCoy
    • 1
  • Jerrold Meinwald
    • 2
  • Thomas Eisner
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of ChemistrySUNYCortlandUSA
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry and Chemical BiologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologySUNYAlbanyUSA
  4. 4.SimpsonvilleUSA
  5. 5.Department of Neurobiology and BehaviorCornell UniversityIthacaUSA