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Trends Ecol Evol. 2005 Nov;20(11):585-7. Epub 2005 Sep 8.

Linking nectar amino acids to fitness in female butterflies.

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  • 1Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK, CF10 3TL.


Nectar of butterfly-pollinated flowers contains generally higher levels of amino acids than does nectar of flowers pollinated by most other animal types. One proposed explanation is that these amino acids promote butterfly fitness, although the evidence has been equivocal. In a new study, Mevi-Sch├╝tz and Erhardt showed that nectar amino acids enhanced fecundity in the butterfly Araschnia levana, but only when the larval diet was poor. Their results support the hypothesis that butterflies are agents of selection for higher nectar amino acid production, suggest that the larval food plant has a key role in the evolution of the flower-butterfly mutualism, and demonstrate that the importance, to butterfly reproduction, of different nutrient sources varies with butterfly nutritional state.

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