Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are the major defense compounds of plants in the Senecio genus. Here I will review the effects of PAs in Senecio on the preference and performance of specialist and generalist insect herbivores. Specialist herbivores have evolved adaptation to PAs in their host plant. They can use the alkaloids as cue to find their host plant and often they sequester PAs for their own defense against predators. Generalists, on the other hand, can be deterred by PAs. PAs can also affect survival of generalist herbivores. Usually generalist insects avoid feeding on young Senecio leaves, which contain a high concentration of alkaloids. Structurally related PAs can differ in their effects on insect herbivores, some are more toxic than others. The differences in effects of PAs on specialist and generalists could lead to opposing selection on PAs, which may maintain the genetic diversity in PA concentration and composition in Senecio species
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