Plants produce a variety of secondary metabolites (PSMs) that may be selective against herbivores. Yet, specialist herbivores may use PSMs as cues for host recognition, oviposition, and feeding stimulation, or for their own defense against parasites and predators. This summarizes a dual role of PSMs: deter generalists but attract specialists. It is not clear yet whether specialist herbivores are a selective force in the evolution of PSM diversity. A prerequisite for such a selective force would be that the preference and/or performance of specialists is influenced by PSMs. To investigate these questions, we conducted an oviposition experiment with cinnabar moths (Tyria jacobaeae) and plants from an artificial hybrid family of Jacobaea vulgaris and Jacobaea aquatica. The cinnabar moth is a specialist herbivore of J. vulgaris and is adapted to pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), defensive PSMs of these plants. The number of eggs and egg batches oviposited by the moths were dependent on plant genotype and positively correlated to concentrations of tertiary amines of jacobine-like PAs and some otosenine-like PAs. The other PAs did not correlate with oviposition preference. Results suggest that host plant PAs influence cinnabar moth oviposition preference, and that this insect is a potential selective factor against a high concentration of some individual PAs, especially those that are also involved in resistance against generalist herbivores
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