Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 321–339 | Cite as

Pharmacodynamics of some individual milkweed cardenolides fed to larvae of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus L.)

  • James N. Seiber
  • Paul M. Tuskes
  • Lincoln P. Brower
  • Carolyn J. Nelson


Adult monarch butterflies,Danaus plexippus L. (Lepidoptera: Danaidae), store only some of the cardenolides present in the larval milkweed (Asclepiadaceae) host. Feeding known doses of individual cardenolides to 4th instar monarch larvae led to more efficient larval tissue incorporation at low doses than at high ones, and favored storage of cardenolide glycosides over genins. A qualitative regulation also occurs during larval feeding; calactin and calotropin were stored as such but uscharidin was rapidly converted to a mixture of calactin and calotropin which were the forms stored by the larvae. Two genins, uzarigenin and digitoxigenin, were stored by larvae as polar cardenolide metabolites.

Key words

Cardenolides monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus L. Lepidoptera Danaidae storage regulation metabolism uscharidin calactin calotropin uzarigenin digitoxigenin 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • James N. Seiber
    • 1
  • Paul M. Tuskes
    • 1
  • Lincoln P. Brower
    • 2
  • Carolyn J. Nelson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental ToxicologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavis
  2. 2.Webster Center for the Biological SciencesAmhersl CollegeAmherst

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