Adult tiger moths exhibit a wide range of palatabilities to the insectivorous big brown bat Eptesicus fuscus. Much of this variation is due to plant allelochemics ingested and sequestered from their larval food. By using a comparative approach involving 15 species from six tribes and two subfamilies of the Arctiidae we have shown that tiger moths feeding on cardiac glycoside-containing plants often contain highly effective natural feeding deterrents. Feeding on pyrrolizidine alkaloid-containing plants is also an effective deterrent to predation by bats but less so than feeding on plants rich in cardiac glycosides. Moths feeding on plants containing iridoid glycosides and/or moths likely to contain biogenic amines were the least deterrent. By manipulating the diet of several tiger moth species we were able to adjust their degree of palatability and link it to the levels of cardiac glycosides or pyrrolizidine alkaloids in their food. We argue that intense selective pressure provided by vertebrate predators including bats has driven the tiger moths to sequester more and more potent deterrents against them and to acquire a suite of morphology characteristics and behaviors that advertise their noxious taste.
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