One of the most well knownassociations between an animal and plant species is the relationship between Monarch butterflies and Milkweed. Monarch butterflies may certainly be seen nectaringat various species of milkweeds…
Monarch nectaringon Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Monarch nectaringon Butterflyweed(Asclepias tuberosa)
Monarch nectaringon Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
but this isn’t unique – they also drink at a wide variety of other flower species.
Monarch nectaringon New York Ironweed(Vernonianoveboracensis)
It’s the dependency that Monarchs have on Milkweedsas the only food source for their caterpillars that makes this relationship so noteworthy. Monarchs, like many species of insects, have evolved to specialize in their larval (in this case caterpillar) food source in order togain protection from predators through the chemicals they ingest from the plants they eat. Milkweedscontain cardiac glycosides, which are toxic to many species of birds and mammals. Plants have evolved these chemicals to protect themselves from being eaten, a strategy…