Chemical Mediation of Host-Plant Specialization: The Papilionid Paradigm

May R. Berenbaum, Paul P. Feeny

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Understanding the physiological and behavioral mechanisms underlying host-plant specialization in holometabolous species, which undergo complete development with a pupal stage, presents a particular challenge in that the process of host-plant selection is generally carried out by the adult stage, whereas host-plant utilization is more the province of the larval stage. Thus, within a species, critical chemical, physical, or visual cues for host-plant identification may differ over the course of the life cycle. An organizing principle for the study of host-range evolution is the preference–performance hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, ovipositing females should maximize their fitness by selecting plants on which offspring survival will be high; in other words, over a range of potential host plants, adult female preference should be correlated with larval performance. This chapter examines the chemical mediation of host-plant specialization, focusing on the papilionid paradigm. It also discusses how lepidopterans prefer, how lepidopteran larvae perform, preference–performance relationships in Lepidoptera, chemical mediation of preference and performance in papilionids, the chemical cues kairomones and allomones, preference and performance genes, and the role of p450s in host-use evolution.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpecialization, Speciation, and Radiation
Subtitle of host publicationThe Evolutionary Biology of Herbivorous Insects
EditorsKelley Tilmon
PublisherUniversity of California Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780520251328
StatePublished - Jan 3 2008


  • host-plant specialization
  • evolution
  • preference
  • performance
  • papilionids
  • kairomones
  • allomones
  • genes
  • p450s
  • lepidopterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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