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Deane Bowers

University of Colorado at Boulder
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Eating and being eaten: the ecology and evolution of caterpillar chemical defense

Monday, April 11, 2011
Science 1 149, 5:00 PM


Insects are perhaps the most successful group of organisms on earth: over half of all known species of organisms are insects and the majority of these feed on plants. Two factors contributing to the success of insects are their ability to use a wide diversity of plant species as food and their ability to defend themselves against predators. My research examines how insects deal with the many chemical compounds found in their food, the evolution of the ability of some insect species to “recycle” plant chemical compounds and use them for their own defense, and how these defenses affect the interaction of these insects with their natural enemies. This talk will provide an introduction to plant defenses, discuss the evolution and ecology of how herbivorous insects deal with these defenses, provide some examples of the effectiveness of these defenses, and consider how introduced weeds might alter these interactions.


Deane Bowers received her bachelor’s degree in zoology from Smith College and her Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts in 1979.  After a 2-year post-doc at Stanford University, she started her first job in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, where she was the curator of Lepidoptera.  She came to the University of Colorado in 1989, as Curator of Entomology at the CU Museum and Professor of Biology in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where she has been happily employed ever since.  Her research interests are in the ecology and evolution of insects, insect chemical ecology, plant-insect interactions, biological control of invasive weeds, interactions of caterpillars and natural enemies, and the biology of the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).  She has taught a variety of courses at the University of Colorado, including Entomology, Introductory Biology, Plant-Animal Interactions, and Collections Management.  She has a great group of graduate students and wonderful colleagues in both EEB and the Entomology section of the Museum.  She is having a wonderful time spending this academic year on sabbatical at Brown University and will be returning to Colorado in July.


  • Jamieson, M. and M.D. Bowers.  2010. Iridoid glycoside variation in the invasive plant Dalmatian Toadflax, Linaria dalmatica (Plantaginaceae), and sequestration by the biological control agent Calophasia lunula (Noctuidae).  Journal of Chemical Ecology 36:70-79. [PDF]
  • Smilanich, A., L.A. Dyer, J. Chambers, and M.D. Bowers.  2009. Immunological cost of chemical defence and the evolution of herbivore diet breadth.  Ecology Letters 12:612-621. [PDF]
  • Bowers, M.D. 1993. Aposematic Caterpillars: Lifestyles of the Unpalatable and Warningly Colored.  In: N. Stamp and T. Casey (eds.) Caterpillars:  Ecological and Evolutionary Constraints on Foraging.  Chapman and Hall.  pp. 331-371. [PDF]
  • Bowers, M.D., N.E. Stamp, and S.K. Collinge. 1992. Early stage of host range expansion in a specialist insect, Euphydryas phaeton (Nymphalidae). Ecology 73:526-536. [PDF]

Seminar Recording:

Poster (PDF):