Biology

Parides agavus caterpillars feed on many species of the plant family Aristolochiaceae including Aristolochia brasiliensis, Aristolochia fimbriata, Aristolochia rumicifolia and especially Aristolochia triangularis (Tyler et al, 1994).

Many of the plants in this family contain aristolochic acids (Mebs and Schneider, 2002) which can cause kidney problems in mammals and are suspected to have carcinogenic effects (Arlt et al, 2002).

The caterpillars however, tolerate these chemicals in their diet and can store them in their body tissue. It is not yet known for sure whether the aristolochic acids provide the caterpillars and their adult butterflies with a defence against predators (Mebs and Schneider, 2002).

In taste tests using wild king birds (Tyrannus melancholicus Vieillot.) Parides butterflies were consistently rejected by the birds who displayed aversive behaviours towards them (Pinheiro, 1996). This may be due to the acids that the caterpillars have sequestered, making them unpalatable to the birds.

The life span of these butterflies is relatively short - only 2 weeks on average (Brown et al, 2004).

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