Toxicity of Angular Furanocoumarins to Swallowtail Butterflies: Escalation in a Coevolutionary Arms Race?

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Science  22 May 1981:
Vol. 212, Issue 4497, pp. 927-929
DOI: 10.1126/science.212.4497.927


Xanthotoxin, a linear furanocoumarin occurring in many plants of the family Umbelliferae, is not appreciably toxic to the umbellifer-feeding larvae of Papilio polyxenes (Lepidoptera; Papilionidae), whereas angelicin, an angular furanocoumarin found only in a few relatively advanced tribes of the Umbelliferae, reduces growth rate and fecundity. The biosynthetic pathway leading to angular attachment of the furan ring may thus have been a response within the Umbelliferae to selective pressures exerted by specialized herbivores that had adapted to feeding on linear furanocoumarins.