Author(s): Metcalf RL, Metcalf RA, Rhodes AM
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Abstract The characteristic bitter substances of the Cucurbitaceae act as kairomones for a large group of diabroticite beetles (Chrysomelidae, Galerucinae, Luperini), promoting host selection and compulsive feeding behavior. These beetles (e.g., Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi) respond to as little as 1 ng of cucurbitacin (Cuc) B on thin-layer plates by arrest and compulsive feeding. Six species of diabroticite beetles were about 10 times more responsive to Cuc B than to Cuc E and less responsive to Cuc D, I, and L. Chloroform extracts of 18 species of Cucurbita were developed on thin-layer chromatograms and exposed to diabroticite beetles. The feeding patterns showed pronounced beetle responses to three general Cuc distribution patterns: Cuc B and D as in Cucurbita andreana and C. ecuadorensis; Cuc E and I as in C. okeechobeensis and C. martinezii; and Cuc E glycoside in C. texana. All the diabroticites responded in exactly the same feeding patterns. The results demonstrate a coevolutionary association between the Cucurbitaceae and the Luperini, during which the intensely bitter and toxic Cucs that arose to repel herbivores and protect the plants from attack became specific kairomone feeding stimulants for the beetles.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Journal of Agricultural Science and Food Research