Auditory predator cues affect monarch (Danaus plexippus; Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) development time and pupal weight

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Predation risk is a key factor that impacts the growth and behavior of organisms. The ability to detect and react to potential predators provides a major competitive advantage, but the energetic costs associated with anti-predator behaviors can be severe. Monarch (Danaus plexippus) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) caterpillars detect airborne predators through auditory predator cues, identifying the sound of a potential threat and exhibiting anti-predator behavior accordingly. Previous work on this species has examined only short-term behavioral changes in response to predation risk. We exposed monarch caterpillars to recorded predator cues in order to provoke anti-predator behaviors over an extended period of time in an effort to determine the long-term fitness costs associated with these behaviors. Our results show that exposure to wasp buzzing reduces development time and final pupal weight. These results imply that the stress of predation risk causes monarch caterpillars to accelerate their development, pupating more quickly in order to avoid the threat of predation. This shorter developmental time leads to the caterpillars pupating at a suboptimal weight, potentially reducing their future fecundity and lowering their ecological fitness as a whole.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Acta Oecologica