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Insects 2017, 8(1), 23; doi:10.3390/insects8010023

Impact of Consuming ‘Toxic’ Monarch Caterpillars on Adult Chinese Mantid Mass Gain and Fecundity

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881, USA
Department of Biology, Muskingum University, New Concord, OH 43762, USA
Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Brian T. Forschler
Received: 28 December 2016 / Revised: 11 February 2017 / Accepted: 12 February 2017 / Published: 17 February 2017
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [534 KB, uploaded 17 February 2017]   |  


Predators that feed on chemically-defended prey often experience non-lethal effects that result in learned avoidance of the prey species. Some predators are able to consume toxic prey without ill-effect. The Chinese mantid is able to consume cardenolide-containing monarch caterpillars without immediate adverse effects. Although they discard the caterpillars’ gut contents, mantids consume sequestered cardenolides. Although consumption of these cardenolides does not elicit an acute response, there may be long-term costs associated with cardenolide consumption. We tested the hypothesis that consumption of monarch caterpillars will adversely affect adult mantid biomass gain and reproductive condition. We reared mantids from egg to adult and assigned them to one of four toxicity groups that differed in the number of monarch caterpillars offered over a 15-day period. Mantids consumed similar amounts of prey biomass during the experiment. Yet, mantids in the high-toxicity group had a higher conversion efficiency and gained more biomass than mantids in other groups. Mantids in all treatment groups produced similar numbers of eggs. However, mantids in the high-toxicity group produced heavier eggs and devoted a greater portion of their biomass toward egg production than those in the control group. This increase in reproductive condition is probably driven by variation in prey nutritional value and/or the nutritional advantages inherent in eating multiple food types. Our results demonstrate the mantid is able to incorporate ‘toxic’ monarch prey into its diet without acute or chronic ill-effects. View Full-Text
Keywords: Tenodera sinensis; Danaus plexippus; fecundity; monarch; prey toxicity Tenodera sinensis; Danaus plexippus; fecundity; monarch; prey toxicity

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Rafter, J.L.; Gonda-King, L.; Niesen, D.; Seeram, N.P.; Rigsby, C.M.; Preisser, E.L. Impact of Consuming ‘Toxic’ Monarch Caterpillars on Adult Chinese Mantid Mass Gain and Fecundity. Insects 2017, 8, 23.

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