Paper on memetic wing perception published!

Rufous Mot Mot -- UV

A paper based on research at the Heliconius Insectaries has confirmed that the butterflies use ultraviolet cues to promote effective mating behavior while maintaining the advantages of mimicry to ward off predators. The research team investigated how the species manages the conflicting goals of adaptive coloration – both attracting mates and repelling enemies. The paper, “The appearance of mimetic Heliconius butterflies to predators and conspecifics,” by Denise Dalbosco Dell’Aglio, Jolyon Troscianko, W. Owen McMillan, Martin Stevens, and Chris D. Jiggins, was published in the October edition of Evolution: International Journal of Organic Evolution.

The study involved how mimicry in four pairs of Heliconius comimics is potentially seen by both other butterflies and avian predators. Researchers used digital image color analysis, combined with bird and butterfly visual system models, to discover how birds and other butterflies of the same species might visualize the mimetic patterns. The research revealed that the Heliconius coloration pattern is less distinguishable to birds with violet vision systems, including major Heliconius predators, than to ultraviolet vision birds. Also, female Heliconius express a second UV-sensitive opsin, which may help them distinguish conspecifics from co-mimics. Males use UV signals for mate choice, evidence that the tension between resistance to predators and attraction to mates affects visual signals.

Tim Thurman’s hybridization paper accepted!

Congratulations to Tim Thurman for having his paper accepted to the Journal of Evolutionary Biology! His paper titled, “Movement of a Heliconius hybrid zone over 30 years: a Bayesian approach” was published after much blood, sweat, and tears. The next time you’re in Panama, Tim, drinks are on us!

Jessica Foley awarded STRI Short-term Fellowship!

Jessica Foley in Ecuador

Jessica was recently awarded the STRI short-term fellowship to carry out a project studying longevity and cognitive decline in Heliconius butterflies. Working under the supervision of both Dr. Owen McMillan and Dr. Stephen Montgomery of the Evolution of Brains and Behaviour (EBAB) lab in Cambridge, she will study the effects of age on learning and memory tests in both Heliconius and Dryas butterflies, with the aim of investigating a potential differential senescence in cognitive ability between the two genera. Will the physiological robustness conferred upon Heliconius by their pollen-feeding behaviour translate to a similar robustness in cognitive ability compared to their non-pollen-feeding close relatives?

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