Larval foodplant families of
Butterfly species in Australia
 
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

FOOD
Papi Nymp Pier Lyca Hesp total
Totals
188236141124401
 
       
Polyphagus
05 124333
 
       
Poaceae
029004877
Cyperaceae
06002329
Loranthaceae
00816024
Fabaceae
1 1016422
Laxmanniaceae
00001717
Mimosaceae
00017017
Capparaceae
00120012
Apocynaceae
01100011
Lauraceae
1 106210
Sapindaceae
0 109010
Rutaceae
500409
Acanthaceae
060208
Caesalpinaceae
006208
 
       
Commelinaceae
000347
Euphorbiaceae
0 12507
Moraceae
050207
Arecaceae
0 10 146
Santalaceae
004206
Annonaceae
500005
Iridaceae
000056
Lecythidaceae
0002 14
Passifloraceae
040004
Combretaceae
0002 13
Dioscoreaceae
000033
Flacoutiaceae
030003
Malvaceae
0 10203
Myrtaceae
0002 13
Pittosporaceae
000303
Rhamnaceae
000303
Urticaceae
030003
Asteraceae
020002
Chenopodiaceae
000202
Epacridaceae
000202
Liliaceae
000022
Loganiaceae
000202
Monimiaceae
1000 12
Polypodiophyta
000202
Primulaceae
000202
Sterculiaceae
000202
Thymelaeaceae
000202
Ulmaceae
020002
Violaceae
020002
 
       
Amaranthaceae
000 101
Araliaceae
000 101
Brassicaceae
00 1001
Celastraceae
000 101
Clusiaceae
0 10001
Cycadaceae
000 101
Elaeocarpaceae
0000 11
Lamiaceae
0000 11
Lecythidaceae
0000 11
Orchidaceae
000 101
Oxalidaceae
000 101
Pandanaceae
0 10001
Plantaginaceae
0 10001
Plumbaginaceae
000 101
Portulacaceae
0 10001
Proteaceae
000 101
Rubiaceae
000 101
Scrophulariaceae
0 10001
Verbenaceae
000 101
Zingiberaceae
0000 11
Zygophyllaceae
000 101
 
       
Formicidae
00014014

COMMENTARY

Looking at this table, and its precusor Foodplant Families of Sydney Butterflies, it seems that, while many butterfly species have polyphagus caterpillars that are able to feed on several plant families, curiously: a majority of the plant families have just a few species of butterfly with caterpillars that feed on that family alone, and do not feed on other plant families.

I suspect it is the coevolution of diversification of internal poisons in the plant families, and metabolic systems in the caterpillars. In the above table: 30% of the plant familes are the foodplants of a single species of caterpillar. Over the last 100 million years, we have had an escalating poison war of offence and defence between plant and caterpillar. So nature, with poison in sap and leaf, has evolved these specialised feeders.

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Australian Butterflies
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(updated 7 December 2009, 15 January 2014, 21 January 2016)