Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 31, Issue 12, pp 2835–2846 | Cite as

Phenological Variation in Chemical Defense of the Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor

  • James A. Fordyce
  • Zachary H. Marion
  • Arthur M. Shapiro


Larvae of the pipevine swallowtail, Battus philenor, feed on plants in the genus Aristolochia, which contains aristolochic acids, toxic alkaloids unique to the Aristolochiaceae. Pipevine swallowtails sequester these compounds and, as a consequence, are chemically defended against many natural enemies. In California, the primary aristolochic acid present in the butterfly is aristolochic acid I. Newly eclosed adult females possess greater amounts of these sequestered toxins compared to males. However, over the course of the flight season, the aristolochic acid content of females in the population declines, whereas male aristolochic acid content remains relatively constant. Transference of sequestered aristolochic acids to eggs by females might explain the decline of these sequestered chemical defenses observed over time. We found no evidence that males transfer aristolochic acids to females via the spermatophore. The possibility that females at the end of the flight season may be automimics of males is discussed. Temporal variation in the aristolochic acid defenses exhibited by this pipevine swallowtail population is both age- and sex-dependent.

Key Words

Aristolochic acid chemical defense sequestration phenological variation pipevine swallowtail Battus philenor automimicry 



We thank Chris Nice, Michelle Boercker, Mary Caflisch, Lisa McDonald, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. Thanks to Shorty Boucher and Dan Tolson of the University of California Natural Reserve System for providing access to Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve. This study was supported by the University of Tennessee, Center for Population Biology (UC-Davis), and the U.S. National Science Foundation (DEB-9306721 to A.M.S. and DBI-0317483 to A.M.S. and James Quinn).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • James A. Fordyce
    • 1
  • Zachary H. Marion
    • 1
  • Arthur M. Shapiro
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.Section of Evolution and Ecology and Center for Population BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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