Brightly-colored beetles or caterpillars feeding on a tropical plant may signal the presence of chemical compounds active against cancer and parasitic diseases, report researchers writing in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The discovery could help speed drug discovery.
Scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and other organizations collected beetles and caterpillars on plants that produce compounds with and without activity against various cancers and parasites. They found that insects showing warning coloration — bright colors and bold patterns — were significantly more common on plants that contained anti-cancer and anti-parasite compounds. There was no difference in abundance of plain-colored insects between plants with and without bioactivity. (more…)