Population Ecology

, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 329–341 | Cite as

Variation in defensive chemistry within a polyphagous Baikal population of Chrysomela lapponica (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae): potential benefits in a multi-enemy world

  • Vitali Zverev
  • Mikhail V. Kozlov
  • Elena L. Zvereva
Original article


Variation in anti-predator chemical defence is frequently observed in natural populations, but its adaptive significance remains debatable. Most populations of the chemically defended leaf beetle, Chrysomela lapponica, are specialized to their host plants, but some populations are polyphagous. We tested the hypothesis that the use of multiple host plants by a Baikal population of C. lapponica results in variation in the composition of its defensive secretions, leading to variation in defence effectiveness against different natural enemies. The secretions of larvae feeding on local host plants differed both in the origin of major components (sequestered or autogeneous) and in chemical profiles. This variation was at least partly associated with differences in the secondary chemistry among the five most abundant plant species used by this population. Larvae feeding on different hosts in nature suffered similar overall mortality from enemies, but the relative contributions of different enemy species (natural enemy profiles) varied among host plant species. Behavioural experiments with three predators and one parasitoid showed that this variation may result from idiosyncratic responses of the enemy species to the composition of the larval defences. These differences allow part of the polyphagous leaf beetle population to escape from the currently most abundant enemy on the host plant species that provides the best protection against this enemy. In this way, the within-population variability in chemical defence, associated with feeding on hosts differing in chemistry, can buffer prey populations against fluctuating pressures of specific enemies.


Chemical defences Herbivorous insects Host plant chemistry Natural enemy behaviour Polyphagy 



We thank G. Soderman, J. Sorvari, J. Pohjoismäki and H. Disney for identification of natural enemies, V. Chepinoga for identification of plants, V. Ossipov and R. Julkunen-Tiitto for analyzing plant samples, M. Hilker, F. Müller and B. Helbig for providing facilities and help with the analysis of larval secretions, S. Didorenko, J. Gross, M. Hilker, and A. Warchalowski for sharing with us their unpublished observations, and three anonymous reviewers for inspiring comments to an earlier draft of the manuscript. The study was supported by the Academy of Finland through research grant to E. L. Zvereva (project 268124) and travel grants to E. L. Zvereva and V. Zverev, and by EU Erasmus + through mobility grant to V. Zverev.

Supplementary material

10144_2017_601_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (183 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 182 KB)


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© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer Japan KK 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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