Ecological Monophagy in the Polyphagous Nymphalid Butterfly Hypolimnas bolina
The polyphagous great eggfly Hypolimnas bolina Linneaus (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) with the reported larval hosts in the plant families Acanthaceae, Amaranthaceae, Aroidea, Asteraceae, Convolvulaceae, Malvaceae, Portulacaceae, Tiliaceae, and Urticaceae, exhibited host plant preference in the biotope of the Andhra University at Visakhapatnam (17°42’N - 83° 20’E), South India. The females tested Asystasia gangetica, Dipteracanthus prostratus (Acanthaceae), Pupalia lappacea (Amaranthaceae), Sida cordata (Malvaceae), and Triumfetta pentandra (Tiliaceae) but oviposited selectively on S. cordata. Total larval development time, length and weight of fifth instar, pupal weight and, the growth and nutritional parameters like consumption index (CI), growth rate (GR), approximate digestibility (AD), efficiency of conversion of ingested food to body substance (ECI) and efficiency of conversion of digested food to body substance (ECD) were studied to assess the relative suitability of the five plant species as host plants. The hatchlings raised on S. cordata were used in all the tests conducted in the laboratory with 28 ± 20 C temperature, 80 ± 10% relative humidity and the natural light conditions of 12 - 14 h duration. The five plant species were found to be physiologically suitable for the growth and the development of larvae but they differed significantly in their effects on the nine parameters studied. Giving five credits to the top performer and reducing one credit in the subsequent host, the established order of their suitability with their total credits was A. gangetica (32) > P. lappacea (30) > D. prostratus (27) > T. pentandra (26) > S. cordata (20). Evidently the criteria of larval performance were not involved in host selection. The prostrate habit of S. cordata and its occurrence in open places with exposure to sun and the female’s behaviour of laying eggs close to the ground were implicated as the ecological and behavioural factors in the selection of the host plant for oviposition. This kind of specialization is described as ecological monophagy.
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