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Interactions between Papilionidae and ancient Australian Angiosperms: evolutionary specialization or ecological monophagy?

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 21:46 authored by Scriber, MJ, Larsen, ML, Geoff AllenGeoff Allen, Walker, PW, Zalucki, MP
The evolution of host range for insect herbivores involves many behavioral, physiological, and biochemical adaptations that often lead to locally specialized populations or species. Such specialization may be constrained by ecological factors (e.g., local host availability) or by evolutionary factors (e.g., phylogenetic divergence in behavioral, physiological, or biochemical detoxification enzymes; and potential inabilities to return to ancestral hosts). While insect adaptations to new hosts can be rapid, ancient detoxification systems may persist in some lineages of swallowtail butterflies (Papilionidae) for millions of years. Here, we test various species of specialized species/populations of Papilionidae (Lepidoptera) from North America and from Australia on an array of Australian host plant families in order to determine whether the current feeding constraints reflect loss of capabilities to recognize and use hosts other than their current (local) favorites. We selected two species of Lauraceae specialists (Papilio troilus L. and Papilio palamedes Drury) from North America and one locally specialized population of Papilio glaucus L. that only uses one plant species in the Magnoliaceae in Florida. We also examined three species/populations of Australian swallowtails for comparison, including the Monimiaceae-specialized Graphium macleayanum moggana L. E. Couchman, the Rutaceae-specialized Papilio aegeus Donovan, and the Annonaceae-specialized Graphium eurypylus L. Our aim was to determine whether neonate larvae of these six specialists could survive on any plants other than their currently favored species. While the Lauraceae specialists could use nothing else and were thus evolutionarily constrained, the Magnoliaceae-, Rutaceae-, and Monimiaceae specialists all had common abilities to accept, feed, and grow on plants in the Lauraceae, Monimiaceae, Magnoliaceae, and Rutaceae families. Even the Annonaceae specialist was discovered using Magnoliaceae in the field, suggesting existence here also of both flexiblity in preferences and detoxification abilities and 'ecological monophagy'. © 2008 The Authors.


Publication title

Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata








Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Hardwood plantations

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    University Of Tasmania