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The white “comma” as a distractive mark on the wings of comma butterflies – experimental tests in the lab and in the field: Distractive mark in a butterfly
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: 0000-0003-4719-487X
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Distractive marks have been suggested to prevent predator detection or recognition of a prey, by drawing the attention away from recognizable traits of the bearer. The white “comma” on the wings of comma butterflies (Polygonia c-album) has been suggested to represent such a distractive mark. In a laboratory experiment using blue tits as predators, we show that the comma on female butterflies effect their survival, since the blue tits attacked butterflies with over-painted commas more often than sham-painted butterflies with intact commas. There was no such effect with respect to male butterflies. Interestingly, the comma contrasts more against the uniformly brown ventral wing surface on females, than on the more variegated coloration of males. Hence, the comma can function as a distractive marking, at least when perceived against a uniformly coloured wing. In a field experiment we placed hibernating, similarly manipulated, comma butterflies on tree trunks of two different species and noted their survival. Although survival was higher on birch than on oak trees, there was no effect of our treatment, likely as a result of butterflies being preyed on by both diurnal and nocturnal predators, the latter of whom are unlikely to pay attention to distractive marks.

National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88114OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-88114DiVA: diva2:609625
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 621-2007-5976
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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