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Study shows butterflies bedazzle predators and escape

  • Published
    31st Dec, 2022
  • Scientists of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) have discovered secrets of a long evolutionary game through which butterflies come to warn, fool, and escape their predators.


About the discovery:

  • The objective of the Discovery: Use of Mimicry by butterflies as an Adaptive phenomenon to escape their predators.
    • Investigating the evolution of Mimicry traits.
    • The study was conducted on Butterfly “mimetic communities” of the Western Ghats.
  • About Mimicry: Mimicry is a clever adaption that butterflies or any other species use to fend off their predators.
    • It is an adaptive phenomenon.
    • In mimicry, a palatable organism resembles an unpalatable organism to deceive predators.
    • “The unpalatable one is called models (Müllerian co-models) and the palatable one is called mimics (Batesian mimics).

A Batesian mimicry is a form of mimicry where a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of a harmful species directed at a predator of them both.

Müllerian mimicry is a natural phenomenon in which two or more well-defended species, often foul-tasting and sharing common predators, have come to mimic each other's honest warning signals, to their mutual benefit.

Where are mimetic communities most common?

  • These mimetic communities are generally common in tropical and sub-tropical biodiversity hotspots.

Mimicry in Butterflies:

  • Mimicry in butterflies is not limited to the resemblance in wing colour patterns alone.
  • Some mimics have also evolved to imitate the flight behaviours of model species
  • In nature, multiple models and mimic butterflies could be found in the same habitat at the same time.
  • These similar-looking co-occurring butterflies together form a mimetic community.

Significance of the Findings:

  • For the first time, the evolution of multiple traits was examined in a biological community, especially in a biodiversity hotspot of the Indian subcontinent.
  • These (findings) can be carried forward to investigate whether the rate of trait evolution is similar in young communities, such as in the Western Ghats versus large, old communities in NE India, SE Asia and the neotropics.
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