Sunday, April 22, 2012

When Butterflies Pretend To Be Moths & Moths Butterflies

Papilio laglaizei at the NHM Butterfly Exhibit. These are amazing mimics of Alcidis agathyrsus (Uraniidae) which are noxious (did not know this until now). Taken 11-05-11

Lepidoptera as you know has always managed to amaze me in some way for years. Every year as I discover how truly amazing they are they never fail to continue to make me speechless. This is one of those times.

Last couple of days I was reminiscing about past visits to that blessed exhibit of mine (ohh yes it's "mine" it's one of my sanctuaries now ^^) I was remembering a rather interesting butterfly that I couldn't remember exactly what it was. Only that it looked remarkably like one of the Uraniids and it was a Papilioniid within the genera of Papilio.

So naturally I got to researching. Blowing up my photos of their epic collection (you need to actually add some of those Uraniids) I went searching until I found it. And then I did research. Provided.......there's practically nothing on them.

There's only one live photo of an individual (cannot post without permission) all the rest are pinned specimens. Gorgeous yet not as they would be when they're in their prime obviously.

This lack of info has naturally led to questions:

1. What's their status? (Common, Uncommon, Threatened etc)
2. Is anything known of their biology (both the moth and the butterfly)?
3. Being that Papilio laglaizei is a mimic of apparently toxic moth what do the moth larvae eat that makes them so noxious that a butterfly would want to mimic them and not another moth?
4. Do the two ever interact with each other in anyway? Do they ever cross paths?
5. Are there any other Papilionidae that mimic any Heterocerans (Moths for you "non scientific people")?

And anything else on them really. There are many other moths that mimic much so you'd almost have to wonder.........^^

Alcidis agathyrsus.........*Speechless*

More research is on the way with the whole mimicry ring with butterflies mimicking moths and moths mimicking butterflies.......because this is just fascinating as hell and it leaves me speechless on how convincing they are.

Even on their own.......Uraniidae in general are probably the most colorful and stunning moths on this planet. Smh.........God I cannot get enough!

FEED ME! *^^*

P.S. More photos of Papilio laglaizei here.


Glyn said...

Great post - mimicry really is an interesting area of research. What always gets me though is what evolved first the toxic/poison trait or warning colouration? If the poison came first all would be eaten without the predator knowing they were different (trait not passed on), if the colours came first they would get eaten first as they were so conspicuous (trait not passed on)! Very awkward!

Brittanie said...

You've just asked a very good question......Smh I cannot believe this hasn't been addressed in all the PDF's of the Heliconiid/Ithomiine butterflies (which IMO are the posterchildren for mimicry) I've been reading up on.

I'll have to ask about this. Goodness just thinking on it is absolutely.......damn. Such an absolute wonder.....

Glyn said...

Ha ha now you're as puzzled as me about it! Let me know if you get any answers!

Brittanie said...

I most certainly will!! =) I'll ask my friends as they might be able to shed some more light on this amazing topic.