Colorado Potato Beetle Toxins Revisited: Evidence the Beetle Does Not Sequester Host Plant Glycoalkaloids
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The Colorado potato beetle feeds only on glycoalkaloid-laden solanaceous plants, appears to be toxic to predators, and has aposematic coloration, suggesting the beetle may sequester alkaloids from its host plants. This study tested 4th instars and adults, as well as isolated hemolymph and excrement, to determine if the beetles sequester, metabolize, or excrete alkaloids ingested from their host plants. HPLC analysis showed: that neither the larvae nor the adults sequestered either solanine or chaconine from potato foliage; that any alkaloids in the beetles were at concentrations well below 1 ppm; and that alkaloids were found in the excrement of larvae at approximately the same concentrations as in foliage. Analysis of alkaloids in the remains of fed-upon leaflet halves plus excreta during 24 hr feeding by 4th instars, as compared to alkaloids in the uneaten halves of the leaflets, showed that equal amounts of alkaloids were excreted as were ingested. The aposematic coloration probably warns of a previously-identified toxic dipeptide instead of a plant-derived alkaloid, as the Colorado potato beetle appears to excrete, rather than sequester or metabolize, the alkaloids from its host plants.
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