Reference numberEC/1985/33
TitleRothschild, Dame Miriam Louisa: certificate of election to the Royal Society
DescriptionCitation typed
CitationDistinguished for her work on Siphonaptera, protective coloration (especially in Lepidoptera) and chemical ecology. She has carried out extensive work on the histology, morphology and taxonomy of fleas. In the course of a thorough analysis of factors which control their reproduction, she was the first to establish that the reproductive cycle of one group of these insects, the rabbit fleas, is under the direct control of the hormones of their host. She has analysed this hormonal relationship further by hypophysectomy and developed fine aerosol sprays with which specific hormones could be introduced directly into the fleas. A strong volatile substance was discovered, controlling copulation of the fleas, and present only in baby rabbit urine.
She has made fundamental and diverse advances in our knowledge of protective coloration and mimicry, in particular on selection for scarcity of numbers, the reversal of cryptic colour-phases in pupae of Pieridae, the significance of size and of early emergence in models and an analysis of the position of warning colours on the bodies and wings of mimetic species.
In the area of chemical ecology, she initiated a new field of animal/plant interactions involving toxic substances (collaborating with Reichstein and others on chemical and pharmacological aspects of the work). She first demonstrated the sequestration and storage of cardiac glycosides (e.g. digitalin) and many other substances sequestered by insects from their food plant; subsequently she and others established the generality of this phenomenon. Recently she has extended this analysis by showing experimentally that toxicity can be induced in a normally non-toxic animal by feeding an unusual, but related, poisonous foodplant. Furthermore, by rearing Lepidoptera on artificial diet, it was shown that apart from storing plant-derived toxins, they frequently secrete their own poisons - a fact unsuspected until now.
Access statusClosed
Fellows associated with this archive
NA193Rothschild; Dame; Miriam Louisa (1908 - 2005)1908 - 2005
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