Aggression Is Induced by Resource Limitation in the Monarch Caterpillar. Academic Article uri icon


  • Food represents a limiting resource for the growth and developmental progression of many animal species. As a consequence, competition over food, space, or other resources can trigger territoriality and aggressive behavior. In the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, caterpillars feed predominantly on milkweed, raising the possibility that access to milkweed is critical for growth and survival. Here, we characterize the role of food availability on aggression in monarch caterpillars and find that monarch caterpillars display stereotyped aggressive lunges that increase during development, peaking during the fourth and fifth instar stages. The number of lunges toward a conspecific caterpillar was significantly increased under conditions of low food availability, suggesting resource defense may trigger aggression. These findings establish monarch caterpillars as a model for investigating interactions between resource availability and aggressive behavior under ecologically relevant conditions and set the stage for future investigations into the neuroethology of aggression in this system.

published proceedings

  • iScience

altmetric score

  • 203.346

author list (cited authors)

  • Collie, J., Granela, O., Brown, E. B., & Keene, A. C.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Collie, Joseph||Granela, Odelvys||Brown, Elizabeth B||Keene, Alex C

publication date

  • December 2020