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Deimatic Display in the European Swallowtail Butterfly as a Secondary Defence against Attacks from Great Tits
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7303-5632
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3476-3925
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4719-487X
2012 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, E-ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 7, no 10, e47092- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: 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. Conclusions/Significance: 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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 7, no 10, e47092- p.
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-82967DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047092ISI: 000309831500136OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-82967DiVA: diva2:576763
Note

AuthorCount:4;

Available from: 2012-12-13 Created: 2012-12-03 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Antipredator defence in butterflies
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Antipredator defence in butterflies
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Predation exerts a potent selection mechanism and has resulted in a suite of antipredation adaptations encompassing morphological and behavioral traits in prey. In butterflies, several such traits appear to be directed towards birds which are considered as one of their major predators. In this thesis I have investigated tactics by which adult butterflies may survive close encounters with birds. In paper I, I provide supporting evidence that the small white “comma” on females of the comma butterfly, Polygonia c-album, has a distractive function on blue tits and so reduces the attack risk. In paper II & III, I investigate the antipredator efficiency of sudden wing-flicking in two species, the peacock butterfly, Inachis io, and the European swallowtail, Papilio machaon, when confronted with domestic fowl and great tits, respectively. Peacock butterflies were manipulated to either display visible or painted over eyespots. Interestingly, the birds that confronted peacocks with visible eyespots were more likely to utter antipredator alarm calls, which imply that the eyespots may be perceived as real eyes of a potential predator. On the whole, wing-flicking in both species typically induced evasion in the birds which suggests that the birds became frightened rather than perceiving the butterflies as not profitable to attack for some other reason. Moreover, I use blue tits as predators to investigate the possible function of smaller eyespots of satyrine butterflies in that they serve to divert predator attacks. Evidence suggests that low light conditions accentuated in the UV may enhance the deflective function of marginal eyespots in the woodland brown butterfly, Lopinga achine (paper IV). In paper V, I show that the presence of one marginal eyespot on the speckled wood butterfly, Pararge aegeria, can deflect bird attacks; moreover, when the butterfly is concealed against the background, eyespots can also increase the latency time until bird attack. In conclusion, my thesis underscores that behavioral studies of predators are instrumental to aid our understanding of the adaptive significance of certain behavioral and morphological traits in prey.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2013. 25 p.
Keyword
Antipredator defence, Bird, Crypsis, Predator, Predator-prey interaction, Prey-attack behavior, Butterfly, Deimatic behavior, Eyespots, Startle display
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88115 (URN)978-91-7447-648-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-04-26, Magnélisalen, Kemiska övningslaboratoriet, Svante Arrhenius väg 16 B, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 5: Manuscript.

Available from: 2013-04-04 Created: 2013-03-06 Last updated: 2014-10-28Bibliographically approved

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