Endogenous toxins and the coupling of gregariousness to conspicuousness in Argidae and Pergidae sawflies
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CitationBoevé, JL. Nyman, T. Shinohara, A. Schmidt, S. (2018). Endogenous toxins and the coupling of gregariousness to conspicuousness in Argidae and Pergidae sawflies. Scientific Reports, 8, 17636. 10.1038/s41598-018-35925-z.
Phytophagous insects tend to be either cryptic and solitary, or brightly colored and gregarious, as a defense against vertebrate predators. Here, we tested whether potent defensive chemicals produced de novo by larvae of Argidae and Pergidae sawflies have influenced the evolutionary relationship between larval appearance and levels of gregariousness. Phylogeny-based correlation analyses indicated only a weak trend for solitary species to be cryptic, and for gregarious ones to be conspicuous. Numerous Argidae were cryptic–solitary or conspicuous–gregarious, whereas most Pergidae were conspicuous–gregarious. Both families also included not truly gregarious but aggregated species, i.e. with individuals more evenly distributed on the host plant. By considering two specific morphological traits, predominant body coloration and contrasting spots on body, each one was (weakly) associated with appearance but none with gregariousness, which reflects the functional relevance of appearance as a whole. Furthermore, Argidae can display alternate appearances during successive larval instars. Finally, an independent contrasts test showed no obvious correlation between two major toxic peptides. Our results point towards diversely combined patterns of linked ecological traits in these insects. By assuming that warning coloration is more warranted against vertebrate than invertebrate predators, we suggest that the occurrence itself of toxins allowed this diversity via differing predator guilds and environmental factors, to which these insects were confronted during evolution.