Poor sequestration of toxic host plant cardenolides and their rapid loss in the milkweed butterflyDanaus chrysippus(Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Danainae: Danaini)

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Abstract

Butterflies of the genus Danaus are known to sequester toxic cardenolides from milkweed host plants (Apocynaceae). In particular, Danaus plexippus efficiently sequesters and stores these compounds, whereas D. chrysippus, is considered to poorly sequester cardenolides. To estimate its sequestration capability compared with that of D. plexippus, larvae of both species were jointly reared on Asclepias curassavica and the major cardenolides of the host plant, calotropin and calactin, were analyzed in adults sampled at different time intervals after eclosion. Both cardenolides were detected in body and wings of D. plexippus. Whereas the calotropin-concentration remained constant over a period of 24 days, that of calactin steadily decreased. In the body, but not in the wings of D. chrysippus, calactin only was detected in low amounts, which was then almost completely lost during the following 8 days after eclosion, suggesting that in contrast to D. plexippus, cardenolides seem to be less important for that butterfly's defence against predators.

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