The evolution of chemical defences and mating systems in tiger moths (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae)

Susan J. Weller, Nancy L. Jacobson, William E. Conner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


The orion and evolution of allelochemical sequestration in tiger moths (Arctiidae) is a complex interplay of larval and adult strategies and phylogenetic history. Using a phylogeny of Arctiidae, we examine the acquisition of secondary compounds from larval host plants and the use of secondary compounds and ultrasound in male courtship displays. We note that two sets of defensive signals (secondary chemicals and ultrasound) have been incorporated independently into arctiid courtship displays. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are used in larval defence, and transformed into male courtship pheromones in several lineages. Phylogenetic inertia best explains the presence of adult collection and use of PAs in the absence of larval sequestration. Ultrasound, an adult defensive display directed at bats and other predators, has also been incorporated into arctiid mating displays. Sensory exploitation appears to underlie this co-option of defence signals for mating purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-578
Number of pages22
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the following for their comments: R. Simmons, R. Zink, and two anonymous reviewers. This work was supported by the Whitehall foundation (W. Conner), NSF dissertation-improvement grant BSR-8700892 and Sigma Xi (N. Jacobson), and NSF grant DEB-9306755 and Grant-in-Aid, Univ. of Minnesota (S. Weller).


  • Cardenolides
  • Comparative biology
  • Histamines
  • Pyrazines
  • Pyrrolizidine alkaloids
  • Systematics
  • Ultrasound


Dive into the research topics of 'The evolution of chemical defences and mating systems in tiger moths (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this