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Butterfly defense against predation

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Oskar Brattstrom.

Butterfly defense against predation has played an important role in Evolutionary Biology – Bates’ 1862 discovery of how perfectly palatable butterflies mimicked nauseous models, was instrumental in convincing the scientific community of the driving force of evolution by means of natural selection in accordance with Darwin’s 1859 theory.

Because the evolution of Batesian mimicry presented evolutionary biologists with a problem – what’s in it for the first mutant mimic?– much scientific enquiry has been devoted to solving the ”mystery of mimicry” ever since Ronald Fisher’s first attempts in 1930 – a field which is intensively active to this very day.

But mimicry is only one way in which butterflies defend themselves against predators, and I will focus on these other means – in particular how harmless and palatable butterflies escape predation through primary defense (by not being attacked) by means of crypsis, masquerade and dazzle coloration, or through secondary defense (after being discovered and attacked) by means of exposing eyespots that can have a deflective or intimidating function depending on the size of these eyespots.

Much of my talk will be focused on experiments in which I have staged trials between bird or rodent predators against living butterflies, and I will show some video clips of predators and prey to illustrate these interactions.

This talk is part of the Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series series.

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