A Diet-Induced Developmental Polymorphism in a Caterpillar

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Science  03 Feb 1989:
Vol. 243, Issue 4891, pp. 643-646
DOI: 10.1126/science.243.4891.643


Caterpillars of the spring brood of Nemoria arizonaria develop into mimics of the oak catkins upon which they feed. Caterpillars from the summer brood emerge after the catkins have fallen and they develop instead into mimics of oak twigs. This developmental polymorphism may be triggered by the concentration of defensive secondary compounds in the larval diet: all caterpillars raised on catkins, which are low in tannin, developed into catkin morphs; those raised on leaves, which are high in tannin, developed into twig morphs; most raised on artificial diets of catkins with elevated tannin concentrations developed into twig morphs.

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