Chemistry Pic of the Week


A monarch caterpillar feasting on some milkweed behind the house. Monarchs are capable of consuming the toxic cardiac glycoside oleandrin (structure below) in milkweed. This substance makes the monarch toxic to animals which might consume them, and the bright distinctive banding of the caterpillar is designed to warn predators. They have to be very careful in eating milkweed (the only plant they’re capable of eating) or the sticky pressurized latex in the plant’s vascular system will disable them.

Image of oleandrin structure by Jeff Dahl. Shared under the terms of Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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