Chemical Defense

Murray S. Blum

University of Georgia

Biologists have become keenly aware that insects possess a remarkable ability to biosynthesize a large variety of compounds for use as agents of chemical defense against their omnipresent enemies. Many of these compounds are unique products (e.g., cantharidin, or Spanish fly, produced by blister beetles) with diverse modes of toxicity against a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate predators. These defensive secretions often originate from unlikely sources that appear to optimize the effectiveness of the chemical defensive systems. Ultimately, for countless species of insects, chemical defense and survival are synonymous.

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