Tear-Away Spots

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Science  03 Sep 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5689, pp. 1371
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5689.1371a

Predation is thought to be one of the primary selective factors that influence the frequently conspicuous color patterns on the wings of butterflies. Wing markings, particularly those at the outer margins, may have the effect of deflecting predatory attention away from the insect's vital parts—head and body—to the more expendable wing edges. The century-old deflection hypothesis also suggests that wings would be selected to tear, enabling the butterfly to escape its predator; if correct, then wings would be expected to tear more easily at deflection markings. Hill and Vaca tested whether wing tear weight varied with hindwing pattern in neotropical butterfly species in the genus Pierella. They found that wing tear weight in species with conspicuous white wing patches (P. astyoche) was significantly lower than in species lacking the patch (P. lamia and P. lena), providing evidence in favor of the second part of the deflection hypothesis: that deflection markings coincide with mechanically weak areas of wing. — AMS

Biotropica 36, 362 (2004).

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