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Data from: UV photoreceptors and UV-yellow wing pigments in Heliconius butterflies allow a color signal to serve both mimicry and intraspecific communication

Citation

Bybee, Seth M. et al. (2011), Data from: UV photoreceptors and UV-yellow wing pigments in Heliconius butterflies allow a color signal to serve both mimicry and intraspecific communication, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.8bb43

Abstract

Mimetic wing coloration evolves in butterflies in the context of predator confusion. Unless butterfly eyes have adaptations for discriminating mimetic color variation, mimicry also carries a risk of confusion for the butterflies themselves. Heliconius butterfly eyes, which express recently duplicated UV opsins, have such an adaptation. To examine bird and butterfly color vision as sources of selection on butterfly coloration we studied yellow wing pigmentation in the tribe Heliconiini. We confirmed using reflectance and mass spectrometry that only Heliconius use 3-hydroxy-DL kynurenine (3-OHK) as a wing pigment. 3-OHK looks yellow to humans but it reflects both UV- and long-wavelength light whereas butterflies in related genera have chemically unknown yellow pigments mostly lacking UV-reflectance. Modeling of these color signals reveals that the two UV photoreceptors of Heliconius are better suited to separating 3-OHK from non-3-OHK spectra compared to the photoreceptors of related genera or birds. The co-occurrence of potentially enhanced UV-vision and a UV-reflecting ‘yellow’ wing pigment could allow unpalatable Heliconius private intraspecific communication in the presence of mimics. Our results are the best available evidence for the correlated evolution of a color signal and color vision. They also suggest that predator visual systems are error-prone in the context of mimicry.

Usage Notes

Location

South America
Central America
Mexico