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Distribution of autogenous and host-derived chemical defenses inOreina leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae)

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The pronotal and elytral defensive secretions of 10Oreina species were analyzed. Species feeding on Apiaceae, i.e.,O. frigida andO. viridis, or on Cardueae (Asteraceae), i.e.,O. bidentata, O. coerulea, andO. virgulata, produce species-specific complex mixtures of autogenous cardenolides.O. melanocephala, which feeds onDoronicum clusii (Senecioneae, Asteraceae), devoid of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in its leaves, secretes, at best, traces of cardenolides. Sequestration of host-plant PAs was observed in all the other species when feeding on Senecioneae containing these alkaloids in their leaves.O. cacaliae is the only species that secretes host-derived PA N-oxides and no autogenous cardenolides. Differences were observed in the secretions of specimens collected in various localities, because of local differences in the vegetation. The other species, such asO. elongata, O. intricata, andO. speciosissima, have a mixed defensive strategy and are able both to synthesize de novo cardenolides and to sequester plant PA N-oxides. This allows a great flexibility in defense, especially inO. elongata andO. speciosissima, which feed on both PA and non-PA plants. Populations of these species were found exclusively producing cardenolides, or exclusively sequestering PA N-oxides, or still doing both, depending on the local availability of food-plants. Differences were observed between species in their ability to sequester different plant PA N-oxides and to transform them. Therefore sympatric species demonstrate differences in the composition of their host-derived secretions, also resulting from differences in host-plant preference. Finally, within-population individual differences were observed because of local plant heterogeneity in PAs. To some extent these intrapopulation variations in chemical defense are tempered by mixing diet and by the long-term storage of PA N-oxides in the insect body that are used to refill the defensive glands.

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Correspondence to Jacques M. Pasteels.

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Pasteels, J.M., Dobler, S., Rowell-Rahier, M. et al. Distribution of autogenous and host-derived chemical defenses inOreina leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). J Chem Ecol 21, 1163–1179 (1995).

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Key Words

  • Oreina spp.
  • Coleoptera
  • Chrysomelidae
  • Asteraceae
  • Senecioneae
  • Cardueae
  • Apiaceae
  • chemical defense
  • cardenolides
  • pyrrolizidine alkaloids
  • sequestration