Tritrophic effects of xanthotoxin on the polyembryonic parasitoid Copidosoma sosares (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae)

Evan C. Lampert, Arthur R. Zangerl, May R. Berenbaum, Paul J. Ode

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plant chemistry can have deleterious effects on insect parasitoids, which include the reduction in body size, increased development time, and increased mortality. We examined the effects of xanthotoxin, a linear furanocoumarin, on the polyembryonic encyrtid wasp Copidosoma sosares, a specialist parasitoid that attacks the parsnip webworm, Depressaria pastinacella, itself a specialist on furanocoumarin-producing plants. Furanocoumarins, allelochemicals abundant in the Apiaceae and Rutaceae, are toxic to a wide range of herbivores. In this study, we reared parasitized webworms on artificial diets containing no xanthotoxin (control) or low or high concentrations of xanthotoxin. Clutch sizes of both male and female C. sosares broods were more than 20% smaller when they developed in hosts fed the diet containing high concentrations of xanthotoxin. Xanthotoxin concentration in the artificial diet had no effect on the development time of C. sosares, nor did it have an effect on the body size (length of hind tibia) of individual adult male and female C. sosares in single-sex broods. Webworms fed artificial diets containing low or high concentrations of xanthotoxin were not significantly smaller, and their development time was similar to that of webworms fed a xanthotoxin-free diet. Mortality of webworms was not affected by xanthotoxin in their artificial diet. Therefore, dietary xanthotoxin did not appear to affect C. sosares via impairment of host health. However, unmetabolized xanthotoxin was found in D. pastinacella hemolymph where C. sosares embryos develop. Hemolymph concentrations were fourfold greater in webworms fed the high-xanthotoxin- containing diet than in webworms fed the low-xanthotoxin-containing diet. We failed to detect any xanthotoxin metabolism by either C. sosares embryos or precocious larvae. Therefore, the observed tritrophic effects of xanthotoxin are likely to be due to the effects of xanthotoxin after direct contact in the hemolymph rather than to the effects of compromised host quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)783-790
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Cytochrome P450 detoxification
  • Depressaria pastinacella
  • Fitness
  • Furanocoumarin
  • Plant chemistry
  • Tritrophic interactions
  • Xanthotoxin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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