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Bird attacks on a butterfly with marginal eyespots and the role of prey concealment against the background: Marginal eyespots can deflect bird attacks
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7303-5632
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
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Small eyespots on butterflies have long been thought to deflect attacks and birds are presumptive drivers selecting for these patterns. However, evidence of this function is still ambiguous. Marginal eyespots typically consist of a UV-reflective white pupil, surrounded by one black and one yellowish ring. We have recently shown that blue tits attack such eyespots, but only under low light intensities with accentuated UV-levels. An increased salience of the eyespots relative to the rest of the butterfly probably explains this result. Possibly, a background against which the butterfly is concealed may deceive birds to making similar errors. We therefore presented speckled wood butterflies provided with eyespots (or controls without eyespots) to blue tits against two backgrounds, oak- and birch bark. Results show that (i) eyespots, independent of background, were effective in deflecting attacks, (ii) the time elapsed between a bird’s landing and attack was interactively dependent on background and whether the butterfly bore an eyespot and (iii) the speed at which a butterfly was attacked predicted the outcome, with faster birds being more prone to errors than slower birds. This underscores a speed-accuracy tradeoff in the predators and that background plays a role in the defensive qualities of marginal eyespots.

National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88112OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-88112DiVA: diva2:609618
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 621-2010-5579
Available from: 2013-03-06 Created: 2013-03-06 Last updated: 2014-10-28Bibliographically 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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