Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Butterfly vision, wing colors linked

Date:
March 1, 2010
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
Butterfly experts have suspected for more than 150 years that vision plays a key role in explaining wing color diversity. Now, for the first time, research shows the truth in this theory -- at least in nine Heliconius species.

Heliconius erato butterflies have evolved photoreceptors in their eyes for detecting UV colors and express UV-yellow pigment on their wings.
Credit: Photo by and image courtesy of Bill Berthet

Butterfly experts have suspected for more than 150 years that vision plays a key role in explaining wing color diversity. Now, for the first time, research led by UC Irvine biologists proves this theory true -- at least in nine Heliconius species.

Butterflies that have a duplicate gene allowing them to see ultraviolet colors also have UV-yellow pigment on their wings, reports the study by UCI's Adriana Briscoe, Seth Bybee and colleagues. The UV-yellow pigment may help the butterflies survive by facilitating the search for appropriate mates, which leaves more time for reproducing, eating and thriving.

"They're not wasting their time chasing after the wrong mate," said Briscoe, associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology and lead author of the study, published online recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Butterflies developed a copy of their UV-vision gene and began displaying UV-yellow pigment 12 million to 25 million years ago, the scientists believe. Of the 14,000 butterfly species in the world, only the Heliconius living in the forests of Mexico and Central and South America are known to have the duplicate gene.

After researchers discovered the copied gene, "we wanted to find out why it might be advantageous," Briscoe said. They examined thousands of wing-color patches and found that butterflies with just one UV-vision gene had yellow wing pigment that was not UV. However, the pigment was UV in butterflies with both genes.

Early naturalists hypothesized that wing-color mimicry -- causing butterflies to resemble bad-tasting relatives -- emerged as a defense mechanism to confuse predators such as birds. This created a problem, though: Butterflies that evolved to look alike had a hard time identifying the right species with which to mate.

Having both genes allows molecules to form in the eyes that are more sensitive to UV light. "We think that by switching to a new way of making yellow, the mimetic butterfly species were better able to tell each other apart," Briscoe said.

The diverse wing patterns of Heliconius butterflies have generated much scientific interest in recent years, including a genome-sequencing project co-directed by UCI's Robert Reed, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology.

Said Briscoe: "We now have strong reason to believe that we'll find other examples in which vision and wing colors are linked."

In addition to Briscoe, Bybee and Reed, Furong Yuan and Marilou Sison-Mangus of UCI worked on the study, along with Gary Bernard of the University of Washington in Seattle, Andrew Warren and Jorge Llorente-Bousquets of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and Chuan-Chin Chiao of the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan.

The study was supported in part by the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "Butterfly vision, wing colors linked." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100216140301.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2010, March 1). Butterfly vision, wing colors linked. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100216140301.htm
University of California - Irvine. "Butterfly vision, wing colors linked." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100216140301.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lion Cubs the Pride of San Diego Zoo

Lion Cubs the Pride of San Diego Zoo

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 13, 2014) Roars of excitement as a proud lioness shows off her four cubs at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins