UV-induced anthocyanin in the host plant Sedum lanceolatum has little effect on feeding by larval Parnassius smintheus

  • John P. BallasEmail author
  • Stephen F. Matter
Original Article


Climate change has resulted in shorter periods of snow cover in alpine meadows, increasing the duration of UV exposure. We established the relationship between increased exposure to UV light and anthocyanin pigment levels in host plant Sedum lanceolatum and tested whether increased exposure changed the feeding behavior of its herbivore Parnassius smintheus. Anthocyanin concentrations were significantly greater in plants exposed to UV. Under field conditions, we found a preference of P. smintheus caterpillars for plants with slightly above average levels of anthocyanin; however, no-choice feeding experiments in which larvae ranging from 1 to 3 days old were placed on UV-rich and UV-low plants showed no difference in feeding. These results indicate that the reduction of snow cover in alpine meadows will change the pigment profile of plants, but these changes may have little effect on herbivory.


Anthocyanin Herbivory Climate change Plant defense 



We thank Kelsey Harrison, Sarah Senne, and Alexus Wimbish for assistance in the field. Research was supported by a National Geographic Society Grant (NGS-9905-16) to SFM and a University of Cincinnati, Department of Biological Sciences STEM summer fellowship to JPB.

Author contributions

SFM and JPB conceived the research. JPB carried out the laboratory experiments. JPB and SFM conducted the field research and analyzed the data. JPB wrote the first draft of the manuscript and SFM edited it.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Swiss Botanical Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal EcologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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