Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Science fair winner publishes new study on butterfly foraging behavior

Date:
April 30, 2012
Source:
University of Florida
Summary:
A University of Florida lepidopterist has spent his life's work studying moths and butterflies. But it was his teenage daughter who led research on how color impacts butterflies' feeding patterns.

University of Florida lepidopterist Andrei Sourakov has spent his life's work studying moths and butterflies. But it was his teenage daughter, Alexandra, who led research on how color impacts butterflies' feeding patterns.

The research shows different species exhibit unique foraging behaviors, and the study may be used to build more effective, species-specific synthetic lures for understanding pollinators, insects on which humans depend for sustaining many crops.

In a study appearing online in April in the journal Psyche: A Journal of Entomology, researchers used multi-colored landing pads and baits in the Florida Museum of Natural History's McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity on the UF campus to determine that some butterflies use both sight and smell to locate food, while others rely primarily on smell.

"Butterflies are a great model for studying the environment and we can move in different directions from here in terms of application," said Florida Museum collection coordinator and study co-author Andrei Sourakov. "We've shown choosing certain scents or colored plants might depend on what species you want to attract -- if we can determine how to attract butterflies, perhaps we can also trap pest moths that lay eggs in agricultural fields."

Alexandra Sourakov began the research for a local science fair competition in 2009, spending weekends and after-school hours conducting experiments in the Florida Museum's Butterfly Rainforest exhibit.

"In eighth grade, we had to design a project, and I spend a lot of time around butterflies because my dad works with them," said Eastside High School sophomore Alexandra. "I've always been curious how they were able to locate their food, whether they fed on flowers or fruit, and so I started looking at it in the Butterfly Rainforest."

Alexandra placed red, yellow and black cardboard landing pads covered with honey, and observed flower-feeding species had a greater preference for the red color. But the exclusively fruit-feeding Blue Morpho showed no preference for a particular color. Mango, honey and green, ripe and fermented bananas were presented to fruit-feeding butterflies, and fermented bananas proved most attractive.

After winning first prize in eighth grade at the state science fair, Alexandra Sourakov was invited by study co-author and science fair judge Adrian Duehl to expand her study and conduct chemical analysis at the U.S. Department of Agriculture on UF's campus.

"Of about 600 butterflies attracted to bait, half of them were the Blue Morphos, so it was a logical species to focus on for the chemical part of the study," Andrei Sourakov said.

Gas chromatography coupled with parallel detection by mass spectrometry and electroantennography (measuring antennae output to the brain) were used to determine which chemicals that smelled like fermented bananas cause reactions in the Blue Morpho butterflies' body parts, including antennae, proboscis, legs and labial palpi, which are small projections protruding from the head. Surprisingly, all the organs reacted to the same range of chemicals except the labial palpi.

"It might have been expected that the results were species-specific because each species feeds on different food, but I was surprised by the results from the body parts because I wasn't even sure if any of them except the antennae would react to the volatile chemicals," Alexandra Sourakov said. "That was interesting because it shows a joint message may be sent to the brain from these different organs. This expands our understanding of butterflies' sense of smell."

Little is known about the function of the labial palpi and their contrasting reaction to the chemicals poses new questions about how different organs are used in finding food, said Adriana Briscoe, an associate professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California Irvine who studies how color vision affects foraging behavior in butterflies.

"What's nice about this study is that it's multi-disciplinary, in that it looks at both vision behavior and olfactory behavior and physiology," Briscoe said. "It's very interesting that they found the different compounds in fruit are sensed by different body parts of the butterfly and it suggests that different organs are specialized for detecting different compounds."

Andrei Sourakov initiated the study as a means to involve young people in research and Briscoe agrees that, "the more young kids or high school kids that can get involved in doing science, the better off we are as a society."

"I would love to see more of this sort of thing done," Briscoe said. "It's challenging to engage high school students with science, and I think butterflies are a wonderful way to draw them in."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. The original article was written by Danielle Torrent. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alexandra Sourakov, Adrian Duehl, Andrei Sourakov. Foraging Behavior of the Blue Morpho and Other Tropical Butterflies: The Chemical and Electrophysiological Basis of Olfactory Preferences and the Role of Color. Psyche: A Journal of Entomology, 2012; 2012: 1 DOI: 10.1155/2012/378050

Cite This Page:

University of Florida. "Science fair winner publishes new study on butterfly foraging behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430152127.htm>.
University of Florida. (2012, April 30). Science fair winner publishes new study on butterfly foraging behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430152127.htm
University of Florida. "Science fair winner publishes new study on butterfly foraging behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430152127.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
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