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Data from: Reduced palatability, fast flight, and tails: Decoding the defence arsenal of Eudaminae skipper butterflies in a Neotropical locality

Cite this dataset

Linke, Daniel et al. (2024). Data from: Reduced palatability, fast flight, and tails: Decoding the defence arsenal of Eudaminae skipper butterflies in a Neotropical locality [Dataset]. Dryad.


Prey often rely on multiple defences against predators, such as flight speed, attack deflection from vital body parts, or unpleasant taste, but our understanding on how often and why they are co-exhibited remains limited. Eudaminae skipper butterflies use fast flight and mechanical defences (hindwing tails), but whether they use other defences like unpalatability (consumption deterrence), and how these defences interact, has not been assessed.

We tested the palatability of 12 abundant Eudaminae species in Peru, using training and feeding experiments with domestic chicks. Further, we approximated the difficulty of capture explained by flight speed and quantified by wing loading. We performed phylogenetic regressions to find any association between multiple defences, body size, and habitat preference.

We found a broad range of palatability in Eudaminae, within and among species. Contrary to current understanding, palatability was negatively correlated with wing loading, suggesting that faster butterflies tend to have lower palatability.

The relative length of hind wing tails did not explain the level of butterfly palatability, showing that attack deflection and consumption deterrence are not mutually exclusive. Habitat preference (open or forested environments) did not explain the level of palatability either, although butterflies with high wing loading tended to occupy semi-closed or closed habitats.

Finally, the level of unpalatability in Eudaminae is size dependent. Larger butterflies are less palatable, perhaps because of higher detectability/preference by predators. Altogether, our findings shed light on the contexts favouring the prevalence of single vs. multiple defensive strategies in prey.

README: Data for: Reduced palatability, fast flight, and tails: Decoding the defence arsenal of Eudaminae skipper butterflies in a Neotropical locality


Daniel Linke, Jacqueline Hernandez Mejia, Valery N. P. Eche Navarro, Letty Salinas Sánchez, Pedro de Gusmão Ribeiro, Marianne Elias and Pável Matos-Maraví

If anything is missing or unclear please contact me directly:

Here is a short list of what each file contains and what the used abbreviations mean:


COI sequences of the sequenced and identified experimental butterflies.


Basically the complete data without morphometric data of each individual.

Chick: Number of the experimental chick

provider: Vendor of this chick

race: Race of the chick (no effect on ratio was found)

colour: Colour of the pellet containing butterfly or mealworm tissue, thus the control pellet has the other colour

ID: ID of the used butterfly (no ID´s for T. molitor)

species / species_genetic: These two column are identical, needed for the brms analysis. Representing final species or species grouping.

sex: Sex of the used butterfly (no sex determination for Tenebrio molitor)

habitat: Species level habitats (habitat of H. melpomene has not been used for any analysis and has not been assessed, T. molitor was store bought)

date: Date of the experiment

valid_picking: Whether the chick actively picked both pellets at least once

valid_consumption: Whether the chick consumed at least 50% of the control pellet

weight_butterfly: Weight of the butterfly used for pellet preparation (missing wings and 3 legs) in g

weight_butterfly_pellet_g: Weight of the butterfly pellet in g

consumption_butterfly_g: Consumed amount of the butterfly pellet after the experiment in g

weight_control: Initial weight of the control pellet in g

consumption_control_g: Consumed amount of the control pellet after the experiment in g

ratio: Consumption ratio (for formula see manuscript); Chick 19 did not pick control or experimental pellet ratio is thus set to null, is getting excluded during the R script

tail: Whether the species has a hind wing tail or not, was later replaced by tail ratio (not assessed or used for controls)


contains the phylogenetic trees used for the brms analysis


This file contains the individual morphometric measurements of all used specimens

chick: Number of the experimental chick

ID: ID of the used butterfly (no ID for T. molitor)

SP: Species or species grouping of the used butterfly (for Spicauda_simplicius_(with_wings) no morphometrics are available as butterflies were feed to the chicks including wings, T. molitor larvae have no wings)

FWL: Fore wing length in cm

FWW: Fore wing width in cm

FWA: Area of 1x fore wing in cm^2

AR: Aspect ratio of the fore wing

WLF: Wing loading calculated using 2x fore wing area and butterfly weight in g/cm^2

palatability supplement.mp4

Video showing the different phases of the palatability experiment


complete R script to run all analyses and create the shown plots


Added measurements on a species level for tail ratio.

Were taken from photos of museum specimens collected in Peru and might not align to 100% with the specimens used in our palatability experiment.

species: Species or species grouping

tail_ratio: Relative length of the tail in relation to the hind wing (see methods for explanation)

tail_length: Absolute length of the hind wing tail in cm (difference between hind wing tail and hind wing lengths)*

*no measurements for H. melpomene or T. molitor


Additional data for the speed / wing loading correlation.

Speed of our study species were not measured but predicted by the linear regression of all other species!

Ref: Origin of the value

colour: Whether the value is from literature or from our study species

species: Butterfly species

WL: Wing loading of this species in Newton/m^2

Velocity: Velocity of this species in m/s

logWL:  log transformed wing loading values in Newton/m^2

logVelocity: log transformed velocity values in m/s


Czech Science Foundation, Award: GJ20-18566Y