Juvenile Hormone Regulates Butterfly Larval Pattern Switches

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Science  22 Feb 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5866, pp. 1061
DOI: 10.1126/science.1149786

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Insect color patterns can be very diverse. This variation is also seen among many larval instar stages, which can take on vastly different phenotypes. Young caterpillars of the swallowtail butterfly, Papilio xuthus, are mimics of bird droppings, whereas the fifth larval instar is camouflaged among the leaves of host plants (cryptic pattern). We find that juvenile hormone (JH) titers decrease during the fourth larval instar. Furthermore, treatment with JH analog at the beginning of the fourth instar stage resulted in reproducing the mimetic pattern instead of the usual cryptic one and likewise altered gene expression patterns to that associated with the mimetic pattern. These findings suggest that JH regulates the progressive larval pattern switch of this insect.

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