Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 85–92 | Cite as

Incompatibility Between Plant-Derived Defensive Chemistry and Immune Response of Two Sphingid Herbivores

  • Evan C. LampertEmail author
  • M. Deane Bowers


Herbivorous insects use several different defenses against predators and parasites, and tradeoffs among defensive traits may occur if these traits are energetically demanding. Chemical defense and immune response potentially can interact, and both can be influenced by host plant chemistry. Two closely related caterpillars in the lepidopteran family Sphingidae are both attacked by the same specialist endoparasitoid species but have mostly non-overlapping host plant ranges that differ in secondary chemistry. Ceratomia catalpae is a specialist on Catalpa and also will feed on Chilopsis, which both produce iridoid glycosides. Ceratomia undulosa consumes members of the Oleaceae, which produce seco-iridoid glycosides. Immune response of the two species on a typical host plant species (Catalpa bignonioides for C. catalpa; Fraxinus americana for C. undulosa) was compared using a melanization assay, and did not differ. In a second experiment, the iridoid glycoside catalpol was added to the diets of both insects, and growth rate, mass, chemical defense, and immune response were evaluated. Increased dietary catalpol weakened the immune response of C. undulosa and altered the development rate of C. catalpae by prolonging the third instar and accelerating the fourth instar. Catalpol sequestration was negatively correlated with immune response of C. catalpae, while C. undulosa was unable to sequester catalpol. These results show that immune response can be negatively influenced by increasing concentrations of sequestered defensive compounds.


Catalpol Ceratomia catalpae Ceratomia undulosa Innate immunity Iridoid glycosides Safe-haven hypothesis 



Funding was provided by National Science Foundation DEB 0614883 to Deane Bowers and Lee Dyer. We thank Eric Quinter and Richard Olsen, who collected Ceratomia undulosa and C. catalpae, respectively. We thank Ned Friedman for use of his microscope and camera to photograph injected beads.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biology DepartmentUniversity of North GeorgiaOakwoodUSA
  2. 2.University of Colorado Museum of Natural HistoryBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderU.S.A.

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