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Data from: Cryptic differences in colour among Müllerian mimics: how can the visual capacities of predators and prey shape the evolution of wing colours?

Citation

Llaurens, Violaine; Joron, Mathieu; Théry, Marc (2013), Data from: Cryptic differences in colour among Müllerian mimics: how can the visual capacities of predators and prey shape the evolution of wing colours?, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.88233

Abstract

Antagonistic interactions between predators and prey often lead to co-evolution. In the case of toxic prey, aposematic colours act as warning signals for predators and play a protective role. Evolutionary convergence in colour patterns among toxic prey evolves due to positive density-dependent selection and the benefits of mutual resemblance in spreading the mortality cost of educating predators over a larger prey assemblage. Comimetic species evolve highly similar colour patterns, but such convergence may interfere with intraspecific signalling and recognition in the prey community, especially for species involved in polymorphic mimicry. Using spectrophotometry measures, we investigated the variation in wing coloration among comimetic butterflies from distantly related lineages. We focused on seven morphs of the polymorphic species Heliconius numata and the seven corresponding comimetic species from the genus Melinaea. Significant differences in the yellow, orange and black patches of the wing were detected between genera. Perceptions of these cryptic differences by bird and butterfly observers were then estimated using models of animal vision based on physiological data. Our results showed that the most strikingly perceived differences were obtained for the contrast of yellow against a black background. The capacity to discriminate between comimetic genera based on this colour contrast was also evaluated to be higher for butterflies than for birds, suggesting that this variation in colour, likely undetectable to birds, might be used by butterflies for distinguishing mating partners without losing the benefits of mimicry. The evolution of wing colour in mimetic butterflies might thus be shaped by the opposite selective pressures exerted by predation and species recognition.

Usage Notes

Location

Peru (San Martin district)