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1.  Molecular basis of wing coloration in a Batesian mimic butterfly, Papilio polytes 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:3184.
Batesian mimicry protects animals from predators through resemblance with distasteful models in shape, color pattern, or behavior. To elucidate the wing coloration mechanisms involved in the mimicry, we investigated chemical composition and gene expression of the pale yellow and red pigments of a swallowtail butterfly, Papilio polytes, whose females mimic the unpalatable butterfly Pachliopta aristolochiae. Using LC/MS, we showed that the pale yellow wing regions in non-mimetic females consist of kynurenine and N-β-alanyldopamine (NBAD). Moreover, qRT-PCR showed that kynurenine/NBAD biosynthetic genes were upregulated in these regions in non-mimetic females. However, these pigments were absent in mimetic females. RNA-sequencing showed that kynurenine/NBAD synthesis and Toll signaling genes were upregulated in the red spots specific to mimetic female wings. These results demonstrated that drastic changes in gene networks in the red and pale yellow regions can switch wing color patterns between non-mimetic and mimetic females of P. polytes.
PMCID: PMC3822385  PMID: 24212474
2.  Deimatic Display in the European Swallowtail Butterfly as a Secondary Defence against Attacks from Great Tits 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47092.
Many animals reduce the risk of being attacked by a predator through crypsis, masquerade or, alternatively, by advertising unprofitability by means of aposematic signalling. Behavioural attributes in prey employed after discovery, however, signify the importance of also having an effective secondary defence if a predator uncovers, or is immune to, the prey’s primary defence. In butterflies, as in most animals, secondary defence generally consists of escape flights. However, some butterfly species have evolved other means of secondary defence such as deimatic displays/startle displays. The European swallowtail, Papilio machaon, employs what appears to be a startle display by exposing its brightly coloured dorsal wing surface upon disturbance and, if the disturbance continues, by intermittently protracting and relaxing its wing muscles generating a jerky motion of the wings. This display appears directed towards predators but whether it is effective in intimidating predators so that they refrain from attacks has never been tested experimentally.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In this study we staged encounters between a passerine predator, the great tit, Parus major, and live and dead swallowtail butterflies in a two-choice experiment. Results showed that the dead butterfly was virtually always attacked before the live butterfly, and that it took four times longer before a bird attacked the live butterfly. When the live butterfly was approached by a bird this generally elicited the butterfly’s startle display, which usually caused the approaching bird to flee. We also performed a palatability test of the butterflies and results show that the great tits seemed to find them palatable.
We conclude that the swallowtail’s startle display of conspicuous coloration and jerky movements is an efficient secondary defence against small passerines. We also discuss under what conditions predator-prey systems are likely to aid the evolution of deimatic behaviours in harmless and palatable prey.
PMCID: PMC3466272  PMID: 23056590
3.  Disruptive coloration provides camouflage independent of background matching 
Natural selection shapes the evolution of anti-predator defences, such as camouflage. It is currently contentious whether crypsis and disruptive coloration are alternative mechanisms of camouflage or whether they are interrelated anti-predator defences. Disruptively coloured prey is characterized by highly contrasting patterns to conceal the body shape, whereas cryptic prey minimizes the contrasts to background. Determining bird predation of artificial moths, we found that moths which were dissimilar from the background but sported disruptive patterns on the edge of their wings survived better in heterogeneous habitats than did moths with the same patterns inside of the wings and better than cryptic moths. Despite lower contrasts to background, crypsis did not provide fitness benefits over disruptive coloration on the body outline. We conclude that disruptive coloration on the edge camouflages its bearer independent of background matching. We suggest that this result is explainable because disruptive coloration is effective by exploiting predators' cognitive mechanisms of prey recognition and not their sensory mechanisms of signal detection. Relative to disruptive patterns on the body outline, disruptive markings on the body interior are less effective. Camouflage owing to disruptive coloration on the body interior is background-specific and is as effective as crypsis in heterogeneous habitats. Hence, we hypothesize that two proximate mechanisms explain the diversity of visual anti-predator defences. First, disruptive coloration on the body outline provides camouflage independent of the background. Second, background matching and disruptive coloration on the body interior provide camouflage, but their protection is background-specific.
PMCID: PMC1634905  PMID: 16959631
crypsis; natural selection; anti-predator defences; colour vision; prey recognition
4.  Aposematism and crypsis combined as a result of distance dependence: functional versatility of the colour pattern in the swallowtail butterfly larva 
The idea that an aposematic prey combines crypsis at a distance with conspicuousness close up was tested in an experiment using human subjects. We estimated detectability of the aposematic larva of the swallowtail butterfly, Papilio machaon, in two habitats, by presenting, on a touch screen, photographs taken at four different distances and measuring the time elapsed to discovery. The detectability of larvae in these images was compared with images that were manipulated, using existing colours either to increase or decrease conspicuousness. Detection time increased with distance for all colourations. However, at the closest distance, detection time was longer for the larvae manipulated to be more cryptic than for the natural and more conspicuous forms. This indicates that the natural colouration is not maximally cryptic at a short distance. Further, smaller increments in distance were needed to increase detection time for the natural than for the conspicuous larva. This indicates that the natural colouration is not maximally conspicuous at longer distances. Taken together, we present the first empirical support for the idea that some colour patterns may combine warning colouration at a close range with crypsis at a longer range. The implications of this result for the evolution of aposematism are discussed.
PMCID: PMC1560331  PMID: 16006332
aposematism; crypsis; conspicuousness; predation; distance; background
5.  Mimetic butterflies support Wallace's model of sexual dimorphism 
Theoretical and empirical observations generally support Darwin's view that sexual dimorphism evolves due to sexual selection on, and deviation in, exaggerated male traits. Wallace presented a radical alternative, which is largely untested, that sexual dimorphism results from naturally selected deviation in protective female coloration. This leads to the prediction that deviation in female rather than male phenotype causes sexual dimorphism. Here I test Wallace's model of sexual dimorphism by tracing the evolutionary history of Batesian mimicry—an example of naturally selected protective coloration—on a molecular phylogeny of Papilio butterflies. I show that sexual dimorphism in Papilio is significantly correlated with both female-limited Batesian mimicry, where females are mimetic and males are non-mimetic, and with the deviation of female wing colour patterns from the ancestral patterns conserved in males. Thus, Wallace's model largely explains sexual dimorphism in Papilio. This finding, along with indirect support from recent studies on birds and lizards, suggests that Wallace's model may be more widely useful in explaining sexual dimorphism. These results also highlight the contribution of naturally selected female traits in driving phenotypic divergence between species, instead of merely facilitating the divergence in male sexual traits as described by Darwin's model.
PMCID: PMC2602815  PMID: 18426753
Batesian mimicry; polymorphism; female-limited mimicry; directional selection; stabilizing sexual selection; convergence
6.  Tetrachromacy in a butterfly that has eight varieties of spectral receptors 
This paper presents the first evidence of tetrachromacy among invertebrates. The Japanese yellow swallowtail butterfly, Papilio xuthus, uses colour vision when foraging. The retina of Papilio is furnished with eight varieties of spectral receptors of six classes that are the ultraviolet (UV), violet, blue (narrow-band and wide-band), green (single-peaked and double-peaked), red and broad-band classes. We investigated whether all of the spectral receptors are involved in colour vision by measuring the wavelength discrimination ability of foraging Papilio. We trained Papilio to take nectar while seeing a certain monochromatic light. We then let the trained Papilio choose between two lights of different wavelengths and determined the minimum discriminable wavelength difference Δλ. The Δλ function of Papilio has three minima at approximately 430, 480 and 560 nm, where the Δλ values approximately 1 nm. This is the smallest value found for wavelength discrimination so far, including that of humans. The profile of the Δλ function of Papilio can be best reproduced by postulating that the UV, blue (narrow-band and wide-band), green (double-peaked) and red classes are involved in foraging. Papilio colour vision is therefore tetrachromatic.
PMCID: PMC2599938  PMID: 18230593
colour vision; wavelength discrimination; spectral receptor; compound eye; ommatidium
7.  Simultaneous brightness contrast of foraging Papilio butterflies 
This study focuses on the sense of brightness in the foraging Japanese yellow swallowtail butterfly, Papilio xuthus. We presented two red discs of different intensity on a grey background to butterflies, and trained them to select one of the discs. They were successfully trained to select either a high intensity or a low intensity disc. The trained butterflies were tested on their ability to perceive brightness in two different protocols: (i) two orange discs of different intensity presented on the same intensity grey background and (ii) two orange discs of the same intensity separately presented on a grey background that was either higher or lower in intensity than the training background. The butterflies trained to high intensity red selected the orange disc of high intensity in protocol 1, and the disc on the background of low intensity grey in protocol 2. We obtained similar results in another set of experiments with purple discs instead of orange discs. The choices of the butterflies trained to low intensity red were opposite to those just described. Taken together, we conclude that Papilio has the ability to learn brightness and darkness of targets independent of colour, and that they have the so-called simultaneous brightness contrast.
PMCID: PMC3311899  PMID: 22179808
vision; insect; compound eye; neuroethology
8.  A model for colour pattern formation in the butterfly wing of Papilio dardanus. 
The butterfly Papilio dardanus is well known for the spectacular phenotypic polymorphism in the female of the species. We show that numerical simulations of a reaction diffusion model on a geometrically accurate wing domain produce spatial patterns that are consistent with many of those observed on the butterfly. Our results suggest that the wing coloration is due to a simple underlying stripe-like pattern of some pigment-inducing morphogen. We focus on the effect of key factors such as parameter values for mode selection, threshold values which determine colour, wing shape and boundary conditions. The generality of our approach should allow us to investigate other butterfly species. The relationship between these key factors and gene activities is discussed in the context of recent biological advances.
PMCID: PMC1690625  PMID: 10853726
9.  A within-species warning function for an aposematic signal 
Aposematic, or warning, signals are generally interspecific in form: one species advertises noxiousness to a predator or parasite species. In a study of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor), we show that a pattern of colouration in the caterpillars that is considered to be aposematic in the context of attack by natural enemies also deters oviposition by conspecific females. In field and laboratory assays, females avoided oviposition on plants bearing live conspecific larvae. Females avoided oviposition on plants bearing artificially constructed models identical to larvae in shape, size and colour pattern. Finally, oviposition on plants harbouring a model bearing the larval colour pattern was reduced relative to plants bearing a leaf-green model, suggesting that the larval colour pattern was essential for avoidance. We discuss how intraspecific and interspecific processes might interact in the evolution of an aposematic signal.
PMCID: PMC1599780  PMID: 16271978
aposematism; warning colouration; oviposition; crypsis; predator avoidance; host-marking behaviour
10.  Evolution of the wave: aerodynamic and aposematic functions of butterfly wing motion 
Many unpalatable butterfly species use coloration to signal their distastefulness to birds, but motion cues may also be crucial to ward off predatory attacks. In previous research, captive passion-vine butterflies Heliconius mimetic in colour pattern were also mimetic in motion. Here, I investigate whether wing motion changes with the flight demands of different behaviours. If birds select for wing motion as a warning signal, aposematic butterflies should maintain wing motion independently of behavioural context. Members of one mimicry group (Heliconius cydno and Heliconius sapho) beat their wings more slowly and their wing strokes were more asymmetric than their sister-species (Heliconius melpomene and Heliconius erato, respectively), which were members of another mimicry group having a quick and steady wing motion. Within mimicry groups, wing beat frequency declined as its role in generating lift also declined in different behavioural contexts. In contrast, asymmetry of the stroke was not associated with wing beat frequency or behavioural context—strong indication that birds process and store the Fourier motion energy of butterfly wings. Although direct evidence that birds respond to subtle differences in butterfly wing motion is lacking, birds appear to generalize a motion pattern as much as they encounter members of a mimicry group in different behavioural contexts.
PMCID: PMC2141665  PMID: 17264060
locomotor mimicry; insect flight; mimetic behaviour; mutualism; bird vision; Müllerian mimicry
11.  Population-level transcriptome sequencing of nonmodel organisms Erynnis propertius and Papilio zelicaon 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:310.
Several recent studies have demonstrated the use of Roche 454 sequencing technology for de novo transcriptome analysis. Low error rates and high coverage also allow for effective SNP discovery and genetic diversity estimates. However, genetically diverse datasets, such as those sourced from natural populations, pose challenges for assembly programs and subsequent analysis. Further, estimating the effectiveness of transcript discovery using Roche 454 transcriptome data is still a difficult task.
Using the Roche 454 FLX Titanium platform, we sequenced and assembled larval transcriptomes for two butterfly species: the Propertius duskywing, Erynnis propertius (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae) and the Anise swallowtail, Papilio zelicaon (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). The Expressed Sequence Tags (ESTs) generated represent a diverse sample drawn from multiple populations, developmental stages, and stress treatments.
Despite this diversity, > 95% of the ESTs assembled into long (> 714 bp on average) and highly covered (> 9.6× on average) contigs. To estimate the effectiveness of transcript discovery, we compared the number of bases in the hit region of unigenes (contigs and singletons) to the length of the best match silkworm (Bombyx mori) protein--this "ortholog hit ratio" gives a close estimate on the amount of the transcript discovered relative to a model lepidopteran genome. For each species, we tested two assembly programs and two parameter sets; although CAP3 is commonly used for such data, the assemblies produced by Celera Assembler with modified parameters were chosen over those produced by CAP3 based on contig and singleton counts as well as ortholog hit ratio analysis. In the final assemblies, 1,413 E. propertius and 1,940 P. zelicaon unigenes had a ratio > 0.8; 2,866 E. propertius and 4,015 P. zelicaon unigenes had a ratio > 0.5.
Ultimately, these assemblies and SNP data will be used to generate microarrays for ecoinformatics examining climate change tolerance of different natural populations. These studies will benefit from high quality assemblies with few singletons (less than 26% of bases for each assembled transcriptome are present in unassembled singleton ESTs) and effective transcript discovery (over 6,500 of our putative orthologs cover at least 50% of the corresponding model silkworm gene).
PMCID: PMC2887415  PMID: 20478048
12.  Correlations between adult mimicry and larval host plants in ithomiine butterflies. 
The apparent paradox of multiple coexisting wing pattern mimicry 'rings' in tropical butterflies has been explained as a result of microhabitat partitioning in adults. However, very few studies have tested this hypothesis. In neotropical forests, ithomiine butterflies dominate and display the richest diversity of mimicry rings. We show that co-mimetic species occupy the same larval host-plant species significantly more often than expected in two out of five communities that we surveyed; in one of these, the effect remains significant after phylogenetic correction. This relationship is most probably a result of a third correlated variable, such as microhabitat. Host-plant microhabitat may constrain adult movement, or host-plant choice may depend on butterfly microhabitat preferences and mimicry associations. This link between mimicry and host plant could help explain some host-plant and mimicry shifts, which have been important in the radiation of this speciose tropical group.
PMCID: PMC1810062  PMID: 15503990
13.  Colour pattern specification in the Mocker swallowtail Papilio dardanus: the transcription factor invected is a candidate for the mimicry locus H 
The swallowtail butterfly, Papilio dardanus, is an iconic example of a polymorphic Batesian mimic. The expression of various female-limited colour forms is thought to be controlled by a single autosomal locus, termed H, whose function in determining the wing pattern remains elusive. As a step towards the physical mapping of H, we established a set of 272 polymorphic amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers (EcoRI-MseI). Segregation patterns in a ‘female-informative’ brood (exploiting the absence of crossing over in female Lepidoptera) mapped these AFLPs to 30 linkage groups (putative chromosomes). The difference between the hippocoon and cenea female forms segregating in this family resides on a single one of these linkage groups, defined by 14 AFLPs. In a ‘male-informative’ cross (markers segregating within a linkage group), a pair of AFLPs co-segregated closely with the two female forms, except in four recombinants out of 19 female offspring. Linkage with these AFLP markers using four further female-informative families demonstrated that the genetic factor determining other morphs (poultoni, lamborni and trimeni) also maps to this same linkage group. The candidate gene invected, obtained in a screen for co-segregation of developmental genes with the colour forms, resides in a 13.9 cM interval flanked by the two AFLP markers. In the male-informative family invected co-segregated perfectly with the hippocoon/cenea factor, despite the four crossovers with the AFLPs. These findings make invected, and possibly its closely linked paralogue engrailed, strong candidates for H. This is supported by their known role in eyespot specification in nymphalid butterfly wings.
PMCID: PMC2602692  PMID: 18285283
evolutionary genetics; mimicry; phenotype–genotype association; engrailed; candidate genes; amplified fragment length polymorphism
14.  Artificial neural networks and the study of evolution of prey coloration 
In this paper, I investigate the use of artificial neural networks in the study of prey coloration. I briefly review the anti-predator functions of prey coloration and describe both in general terms and with help of two studies as specific examples the use of neural network models in the research on prey coloration. The first example investigates the effect of visual complexity of background on evolution of camouflage. The second example deals with the evolutionary choice of defence strategy, crypsis or aposematism. I conclude that visual information processing by predators is central in evolution of prey coloration. Therefore, the capability to process patterns as well as to imitate aspects of predator's information processing and responses to visual information makes neural networks a well-suited modelling approach for the study of prey coloration. In addition, their suitability for evolutionary simulations is an advantage when complex or dynamic interactions are modelled. Since not all behaviours of neural network models are necessarily biologically relevant, it is important to validate a neural network model with empirical data. Bringing together knowledge about neural networks with knowledge about topics of prey coloration would provide a potential way to deepen our understanding of the specific appearances of prey coloration.
PMCID: PMC2323560  PMID: 17255017
aposematism; camouflage; evolutionary simulation; mimicry; perception; predation
15.  Selection for cryptic coloration in a visually heterogeneous habitat. 
We studied selection by predators for cryptic prey coloration in a visually heterogeneous habitat that consists of two microhabitats. It has been suggested that the probability of escaping detection in such habitats might be optimized by maximizing crypsis in one of the microhabitats. However, a recent model indicates that a coloration that compromises the requirements of different microhabitats might sometimes be the optimal solution. To experimentally study these hypotheses, we allowed great tits (Parus major L.) to search for artificial prey items in two different microhabitats (background boards): small patterned and large patterned. On each board there was one prey item that was either small-patterned, large-patterned or medium-patterned and thus compromised. Search time was used as the measure of crypsis and was on average longer on the large-patterned than on the small-patterned background. On the small-patterned background, the small-patterned prey was more cryptic than the compromised prey, which was in turn more cryptic than the large-patterned prey. On the large-patterned background, the small-patterned prey was least cryptic, but the compromised prey did not differ significantly from the large-patterned prey. The compromised coloration had lower predation risk than the matching colorations. This indicates that in some conditions a compromised coloration might be the best strategy for the prey and has important implications for the study of animal coloration.
PMCID: PMC1088829  PMID: 11564349
16.  Chemical mimicry and host specificity in the butterfly Maculinea rebeli, a social parasite of Myrmica ant colonies 
Although it has always been assumed that chemical mimicry and camouflage play a major role in the penetration of ant societies by social parasites, this paper provides the first direct evidence for such a mechanism between the larvae of the parasitic butterfly Maculinea rebeli and its ant host Myrmica schencki. In the wild, freshly moulted fourth-instar caterpillars, which have no previous contact with ants, appear to be recognized as ant larvae by foraging Myrmica workers, which return them to their nest brood chambers. Three hypotheses concerning the mechanism controlling this behaviour were tested: (i) the caterpillars produce surface chemicals that allow them to be treated as ant larvae; (ii) mimetic compounds would include hydrocarbons similar to those employed by Myrmica to recognize conspecifics and brood; and (iii) the caterpillars' secretions would more closely mimic the profile of their main host in the wild, M. schencki, than that of other species of Myrmica. Results of behavioural bioassays and chemical analyses confirmed all three hypotheses, and explained the high degree of host specificity found in this type of highly specialized myrmecophile. Furthermore, although caterpillars biosynthesized many of the recognition pheromones of their host species (chemical mimicry), they later acquired additional hydrocarbons within the ant nest (chemical camouflage), making them near-perfect mimics of their individual host colony's odour.
PMCID: PMC1690087
17.  Convergent evolution of neuroendocrine control of phenotypic plasticity in pupal colour in butterflies 
Phenotypic plasticity in pupal colour occurs in three families of butterflies (the Nymphalidae, Papilionidae and Pieridae), typically in species whose pupation sites vary unpredictably in colour. In all species studied to date, larvae ready for pupation respond to environmental cues associated with the colour of their pupation sites and moult into cryptic light (yellow–green) or dark (brown–black) pupae. In nymphalids and pierids, pupal colour is controlled by a neuroendocrine factor, pupal melanization-reducing factor (PMRF), the release of which inhibits the melanization of the pupal cuticle resulting in light pupae. In contrast, the neuroendocrine factor controlling pupal colour in papilionid butterflies results in the production of brown pupae. PMRF was extracted from the ventral nerve chains of the peacock butterfly Inachis io (Nymphalidae) and black swallowtail butterfly Papilio polyxenes (Papilionidae). When injected into pre-pupae, the extracts resulted in yellow pupae in I. io but brown pupae in P. polyxenes. These results suggest that the same neuroendocrine factor controls the plasticity in pupal colour, but that plasticity in pupal colour in these species has evolved independently (convergently).
PMCID: PMC1690474
18.  Enhancement of chromatic contrast increases predation risk for striped butterflies 
Many prey species have evolved defensive colour patterns to avoid attacks. One type of camouflage, disruptive coloration, relies on contrasting patterns that hinder predators' ability to recognize an object. While high contrasts are used to facilitate detection in many visual communication systems, they are thought to provide misleading information about prey appearance in disruptive patterns. A fundamental tenet in disruptive coloration theory is the principle of ‘maximum disruptive contrast’, i.e. disruptive patterns are more effective when higher contrasts are involved. We tested this principle in highly contrasting stripes that have often been described as disruptive patterns. Varying the strength of chromatic contrast between stripes and adjacent pattern elements in artificial butterflies, we found a strong negative correlation between survival probability and chromatic contrast strength. We conclude that too high a contrast leads to increased conspicuousness rather than to effective camouflage. However, artificial butterflies that sported contrasts similar to those of the model species Limenitis camilla survived equally well as background-matching butterflies without these stripes. Contrasting stripes do thus not necessarily increase predation rates. This result may provide new insights into the design and characteristics of a range of colour patterns such as sexual, mimetic and aposematic signals.
PMCID: PMC2602664  PMID: 18381256
chromatic contrast; predator–prey; colour signals; colour vision; disruptive coloration
19.  Multiple recent co-options of Optix associated with novel traits in adaptive butterfly wing radiations 
EvoDevo  2014;5:7.
While the ecological factors that drive phenotypic radiations are often well understood, less is known about the generative mechanisms that cause the emergence and subsequent diversification of novel features. Heliconius butterflies display an extraordinary diversity of wing patterns due in part to mimicry and sexual selection. Identifying the genetic drivers of this crucible of evolution is now within reach, as it was recently shown that cis-regulatory variation of the optix transcription factor explains red pattern differences in the adaptive radiations of the Heliconius melpomene and Heliconius erato species groups.
Here, we compare the developmental expression of the Optix protein across a large phylogenetic sample of butterflies and infer that its color patterning role originated at the base of the neotropical passion-vine butterfly clade (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae, Tribe: Heliconiini), shortly predating multiple Optix-driven wing pattern radiations in the speciose Heliconius and Eueides genera. We also characterize novel Optix and Doublesex expression in the male-specific pheromone wing scales of the basal heliconiines Dryas and Agraulis, thus illustrating that within the Heliconinii lineage, Optix has been evolutionarily redeployed in multiple contexts in association with diverse wing features.
Our findings reveal that the repeated co-option of Optix into various aspects of wing scale specification was associated with multiple evolutionary novelties over a relatively short evolutionary time scale. In particular, the recruitment of Optix expression in colored scale cell precursors was a necessary condition to the explosive diversification of passion-vine butterfly wing patterns. The novel deployment of a gene followed by spatial modulation of its expression in a given cell type could be a common mode of developmental innovation for triggering phenotypic radiations.
PMCID: PMC3922110  PMID: 24499528
Heliconius; Adaptive radiation; Evolutionary novelty; Pattern evolution; Co-option; Sexual dimorphism
20.  Highly conserved gene order and numerous novel repetitive elements in genomic regions linked to wing pattern variation in Heliconius butterflies 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:345.
With over 20 parapatric races differing in their warningly colored wing patterns, the butterfly Heliconius erato provides a fascinating example of an adaptive radiation. Together with matching races of its co-mimic Heliconius melpomene, H. erato also represents a textbook case of Müllerian mimicry, a phenomenon where common warning signals are shared amongst noxious organisms. It is of great interest to identify the specific genes that control the mimetic wing patterns of H. erato and H. melpomene. To this end we have undertaken comparative mapping and targeted genomic sequencing in both species. This paper reports on a comparative analysis of genomic sequences linked to color pattern mimicry genes in Heliconius.
Scoring AFLP polymorphisms in H. erato broods allowed us to survey loci at approximately 362 kb intervals across the genome. With this strategy we were able to identify markers tightly linked to two color pattern genes: D and Cr, which were then used to screen H. erato BAC libraries in order to identify clones for sequencing. Gene density across 600 kb of BAC sequences appeared relatively low, although the number of predicted open reading frames was typical for an insect. We focused analyses on the D- and Cr-linked H. erato BAC sequences and on the Yb-linked H. melpomene BAC sequence. A comparative analysis between homologous regions of H. erato (Cr-linked BAC) and H. melpomene (Yb-linked BAC) revealed high levels of sequence conservation and microsynteny between the two species. We found that repeated elements constitute 26% and 20% of BAC sequences from H. erato and H. melpomene respectively. The majority of these repetitive sequences appear to be novel, as they showed no significant similarity to any other available insect sequences. We also observed signs of fine scale conservation of gene order between Heliconius and the moth Bombyx mori, suggesting that lepidopteran genome architecture may be conserved over very long evolutionary time scales.
Here we have demonstrated the tractability of progressing from a genetic linkage map to genomic sequence data in Heliconius butterflies. We have also shown that fine-scale gene order is highly conserved between distantly related Heliconius species, and also between Heliconius and B. mori. Together, these findings suggest that genome structure in macrolepidoptera might be very conserved, and show that mapping and positional cloning efforts in different lepidopteran species can be reciprocally informative.
PMCID: PMC2515155  PMID: 18647405
21.  The multiple disguises of spiders: web colour and decorations, body colour and movement 
Diverse functions have been assigned to the visual appearance of webs, spiders and web decorations, including prey attraction, predator deterrence and camouflage. Here, we review the pertinent literature, focusing on potential camouflage and mimicry. Webs are often difficult to detect in a heterogeneous visual environment. Static and dynamic web distortions are used to escape visual detection by prey, although particular silk may also attract prey. Recent work using physiological models of vision taking into account visual environments rarely supports the hypothesis of spider camouflage by decorations, but most often the prey attraction and predator confusion hypotheses. Similarly, visual modelling shows that spider coloration is effective in attracting prey but not in conveying camouflage. Camouflage through colour change might be used by particular crab spiders to hide from predator or prey on flowers of different coloration. However, results obtained on a non-cryptic crab spider suggest that an alternative function of pigmentation may be to avoid UV photodamage through the transparent cuticle. Numerous species are clearly efficient locomotory mimics of ants, particularly in the eyes of their predators. We close our paper by highlighting gaps in our knowledge.
PMCID: PMC2674075  PMID: 18990672
camouflage; mimicry; visual cues; pigment; spider; predator
22.  Polymorphic growth rates in myrmecophilous insects. 
A polymorphism in growth rates was recently described affecting the larval development of the myrmecophilous butterfly Maculinea rebeli, spanning different years in a single insect population. The close integration of M. rebeli into the host ant colonies, facilitated by adaptations in behaviour and chemical mimicry, make extended larval development a successful strategy. Here we present additional data for M. rebeli and new data for Maculinea alcon (another cuckoo-feeding lycaenid) and the two myrmecophilous predators Maculinea arion and Microdon mutabilis (Diptera: Syrphidae). As predicted, M. alcon shows the same growth pattern as M. rebeli with a proportion of caterpillars developing in one year and the remainder over two years. This pattern holds in both northern and southern European populations, where M. alcon exploits different species of host. Against expectation, the same bimodal distribution of pre-pupation body weights, indicating one and two year developers, was found for the larvae of M. arion and M. mutabilis. As predators, both species are less closely integrated in their host ant colonies, suggesting that the polymorphism in growth rates is a more general adaptation to a myrmecophilous life style, arrived at by convergent evolution between the Maculinea and Microdon species. For predatory species we suggest that biennialism is an adaptation to the migratory behaviour of the host made possible by the predators' ability to fast over extended periods. We also hypothesize that M. arion represents an ancestral strategy in Maculinea butterflies and that the growth polymorphism might have become genetically fixed in the cuckoo-feeding species.
PMCID: PMC1690603  PMID: 10819146
23.  A Reversible Color Polyphenism in American Peppered Moth (Biston betularia cognataria) Caterpillars 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(9):e3142.
Insect body color polyphenisms enhance survival by producing crypsis in diverse backgrounds. While color polyphenisms are often indirectly induced by temperature, rearing density, or diet, insects can benefit from immediate crypsis if they evolve polyphenisms directly induced by exposure to the background color, hence immediately deriving protection from predation. Here, we examine such a directly induced color polyphenism in caterpillars of the geometrid peppered moth (Biston betularia). This larval color polyphenism is unrelated to the genetic polymorphism for melanic phenotypes in adult moths. B. betularia caterpillars are generalist feeders and develop body colors that closely match the brown or green twigs of their host plant. We expand on previous studies examining the proximal cues that stimulate color development. Under controlled rearing conditions, we manipulated diets and background reflectance, using both natural and artificial twigs, and show that visual experience has a much stronger effect than does diet in promoting precise color matching. Their induced body color was not a simple response to reflectance or light intensity but instead specifically matched the wavelength of light to which they were exposed. We also show that the potential to change color is retained until the final (sixth) larval instar. Given their broad host range, this directly induced color polyphenism likely provides the caterpillars with strong protection from bird predation.
PMCID: PMC2518955  PMID: 18769543
24.  Does predation maintain eyespot plasticity in Bicyclus anynana? 
The butterfly Bicyclus anynana exhibits phenotypic plasticity involving the wet-season phenotype, which possesses marginal eyespots on the ventral surface of the wings, and the dry-season form, which lacks these eyespots. We examined the adaptive value of phenotypic plasticity of B. anynana in relation to the defence mechanisms of crypsis and deflection. We assessed the visibility differences between spotless and spotted butterflies against backgrounds of brown (dry season) or green (wet season) leaves. Spotless butterflies were highly cryptic and less predated by adult bird predators than were spotted ones when presented against brown leaf litter. However, the advantage of crypsis disappeared in the wet-season habitat as both forms were equally visible. In later experiments, naive birds presented with resting butterflies in the wet-season habitat tended to learn more rapidly to capture spotless butterflies, suggesting a slight selective advantage of possessing eyespots. Moreover, marginal eyespots increased significantly the escape probability of butterflies that were attacked by naive birds compared to those attacked by adult birds, although there were no differences in prey capture success within naive predators. Our results show that natural selection acts against eyespots in the dry season, favouring crypsis, whereas in the wet season it may favour eyespots as deflective patterns.
PMCID: PMC1691594  PMID: 15058439
25.  Background-matching and disruptive coloration, and the evolution of cryptic coloration 
Cryptic prey coloration typically bears a resemblance to the habitat the prey uses. It has been suggested that coloration which visually matches a random sample of the background maximizes background matching. We studied this previously untested hypothesis, as well as another, little studied principle of concealment, disruptive coloration, and whether it could, acting in addition to background matching, provide another plausible means of achieving camouflage. We presented great tits (Parus major) with artificial background-matching and disruptive prey (DP), and measured detection times. First, we studied whether any random sample of a background produces equally good crypsis. This turned out to not be the case. Next, we compared the DP and the best background-matching prey and found that they were equally cryptic. We repeated the tests using prey with all the coloration elements being whole, instead of some of them being broken by the prey outline, but this did not change the result. We conclude that resemblance of the background is an important aspect of concealment, but that coloration matching a random visual sample of the background is neither sufficient nor necessary to minimize the probability of detection. Further, our study lends empirical support to the principle of disruptive coloration.
PMCID: PMC1564081  PMID: 15817442
crypsis; disruptive coloration; background matching; evolution; predator–prey interaction

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