Degree of Dietary Specialization on Furanocoumarin-Containing Hostplants in a Newly Invasive Web Building Caterpillar

Charles A.E. Dean, Aron D. Katz, Wen Yen Wu, May R. Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The genus Depressaria (Lepidoptera: Depressariidae) mostly comprises specialist herbivores with varying capacity for detoxification of defensive phytochemistry. Depressaria depressana, a Eurasian moth recently introduced into North America, is a family-level specialist of the Apiaceae, whose hosts include more than a dozen species in multiple tribes; Depressaria radiella is a super-specialist of Eurasian origin that feeds exclusively on species in the genera Pastinaca and Heracleum throughout its native and introduced range. In eastern North America, it feeds upon Pastinaca sativa, an invasive European species, and Heracleum maximum, a native species. We determined whether differences in furanocoumarin metabolism exist between D. depressana and two isolated populations of D. radiella, feeding exclusively on either P. sativa or H. maximum. We also compared gravimetric estimates of feeding efficiency to assess D. depressana larval performance on different diets. Both populations of D. radiella metabolized furanocoumarins at a greater rate than D. depressana. Although there was no difference in rates of metabolism of linear furanocoumarins in the two populations of D. radiella, individuals collected from H. maximum metabolized angular furanocoumarins more rapidly. The gravimetric assessments of feeding efficiencies revealed that D. depressana exhibited highest efficiencies consuming Daucus carota; moreover, this species survived to pupation consuming fruits of Zizia aurea, an apiaceous species native to North America. Our preliminary phylogenetic analysis, building on an earlier morphological analysis, incorporates mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 data from the BOLD database and revealed that the presence or absence of furanocoumarins is not a strong predictor of species-level evolution in Depressaria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)850-866
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Apiaceae
  • Coevolution
  • Depressariidae
  • Herbivory
  • Phytochemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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