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article imageButterfly eye-spots help ward off predators

By Tim Sandle     Nov 16, 2014 in Environment
Biologists have found that patterned coloration on the wings of butterflies (sometimes called "eye-spots") are an effective means of distracting predators from vital body parts.
The study into butterflies was led by Oregon State University entomologist Kathleen Prudic. The research team studied the effects of eye-spots on the wings of the squinting bush brown butterfly (Bicyclus anynana), which switches from diffuse, less-pronounced spots in the dry season, to dramatic wing spots in the wet season.
It was good to be able to get so close  this butterfly has landed on the back of one of the visitors...
It was good to be able to get so close, this butterfly has landed on the back of one of the visitors.
Why might this occur? According to the research brief: "Eyespots are conspicuous, they draw your attention and are thought to be used by many animal species to avoid death or attack, by either startling or confusing the predator. Many insects have eyespots, which suggests they are an important adaptation."
This is further outlined in the following video:
The biologists found that the wings of Bicyclus anynana individuals in the wet season were more effective at fooling mantid insects, the butterflies’ main predators during rainy times, than the more diffuse wing spots of the dry season forms, which are preyed upon mostly by birds. The researchers even found that pasting wet-season spots onto dry-season butterflies had the same effect. Conversly, dry-season patterns served to conceal the butterflies better from birds in its eastern African woodland habitats.
A colorful butterfly
A colorful butterfly
The findings have been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, in a study called "Eyespots deflect predator attack increasing fitness and promoting the evolution of phenotypic plasticity."
One of the tropical butterflies
One of the tropical butterflies
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