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Male salt marsh moths, Estigmene acrea (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae), possess inflatable androconial organs called coremata. Prior to mating males form aggregations and inflate their coremata en masse. The communal display attracts additional males and females for the purpose of mating. The coremata are known to carry the plant-derived dihydropyrrolizine, hydroxydanaidal. This pheromonal substance is derived from secondary plant chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids found in the larval diet.
When E. acrea larvae were raised on semi-synthetic diets containing different levels of the pyrrolizidine alkaloid precursors the alkaloids triggered a pronounced morphogenetic effect. Adult males that fed on high levels of the pyrrolizidine alkaloid monocrotaline N-oxide (2500 µg) developed the largest coremata. Males that fed on lower levels of monocrotaline N-oxide (500 µg) or no alkaloid, while normal in body weight, had coremata that were progressively smaller and less robust. The size of the coremata and their commensurate pheromonal charge may have behavioral consequences in the unusual mating system of this species.