Experientia

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 171–174 | Cite as

Cantharidin production in a blister beetle

  • J. E. Carrel
  • M. H. McCairel
  • A. J. Slagle
  • J. P. Doom
  • J. Brill
  • J. P. McCormick
Research Articles

Abstract

Cantharidin, a potent defensive chemical, is present in all ten life stages of the blister beetleEpicauta funebris. The first five larval stages accumulate cantharidin as they feed and grow in size. When disturbed, they exude cantharidin in a milky oral fluid, not in hemolymph which adult beetles reflexively discharge from leg joints. Two subsequent larval stages and the pupa do not feed, grow, regurgitate, or change in their defensive reserves (110 μg cantharidin/insect, regardless of sex). Adult beetles kept in isolation for 60–90 d exhibit a pronounced sexual dimorphism in cantharidin production: the male biosynthesizes about 17 mg of the toxin, representing 10% of his live weight, whereas the female actually loses most of her defensive reserves. But in the wild a female beetle repeatedly acquires cantharidin as copulatory gifts from her mates.

Key words

Coleoptera Meloidae Epicauta funebris chemical defense biosynthesis terpenoid 

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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. E. Carrel
    • 1
  • M. H. McCairel
    • 1
  • A. J. Slagle
    • 1
  • J. P. Doom
    • 1
  • J. Brill
    • 1
  • J. P. McCormick
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Biological Sciences and Department of ChemistryUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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