A caterpillar (Callopistria floridensis G. (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)) accumulates arsenic from an arsenic-hyperaccumulating fern (Pteris vittata L.).

Benjamin D. Jaffe, Christelle Guédot, Michael E Ketterer, Moh Leng Kok-Yokomi, Gary L. Leibee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


1. The consumption of arsenic is toxic to most biota. However, a noctuid caterpillar was recently reported feeding on a plant known to hyperaccumulate arsenic. 2. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of arsenic-rich Pteris vittata L. consumption by Callopistria floridensis G., and measure differences in arsenic concentrations at various stages of development (larval and adult), and associated with exuviae and frass. 3. Callopistria floridensis accumulated extraordinary concentrations of arsenic. The relative accumulation of arsenic was highest in exuviae and larvae. Larvae invariably preferred P. vittata grown on low arsenic soil to P. vittata grown on higher soil arsenic concentrations, and appeared able to selectively forage on lower arsenic concentrations within each treatment. 4. These findings show that C. floridensis is tolerant of arsenic, and successfully develops to adulthood containing elevated concentrations of arsenic. Callopistria floridensis represents the only known terrestrial animal capable of accumulating arsenic, and may have developed novel physiological and behavioural adaptations to regulate the negative effects of arsenic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEcological Entomology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • elemental defence
  • hyperaccumulation
  • metal adaptation
  • Plant–insect interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science

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