Sequestration of aristolochic acids by the pipevine swallowtail, Battus philenor (L.): evidence and ecological implications
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It has long been assumed that the North American pipevine swallowtail, Battus philenor (L.) (Papilionidae, Troidini), is protected from natural enemies by aristolochic acids sequestered from its Aristolochia food plants. This study confirmed that populations of B. philenor from Virginia and east Texas sequester these compounds. A comparison of the aristolochic acid profiles of the Virginia butterflies and their A. macrophylla food plants revealed several differences. The aristolochic acid fraction of the foliage was dominated by aristolochic acids I and II, whereas the insects had a much lower proportion of aristolochic acid II and contained, in addition, substantial amounts of aristolochic acids Ia and IVa, which were not detected in the plants. The eggs, larval integument, osmeterial glands, pupal cuticle, and adults (wings and bodies) all contained aristolochic acids. These findings help explain the abundant ecological data indicating that both immature and adult B. philenor are unpalatable and protected from natural enemies.
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