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The importance of the Morpho helenor (Nymphalidae: Morphinae) color pattern in reducing predation by birds: an experimental approach

Grant number: 20/06756-3
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Master
Effective date (Start): December 01, 2020
Effective date (End): February 28, 2022
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Ecology
Principal researcher:Paulo Sergio Moreira Carvalho de Oliveira
Grantee:Aline Vieira e Silva
Home Institution: Instituto de Biologia (IB). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil


The interaction between a predator and its prey goes far beyond the effect on the population dynamics of these animals. Predators impose strong selective pressure that can favor the evolution of defense mechanisms in their prey, many of those involving the color pattern. Butterflies are a group that stands out among the studies of color patterns, as they have a huge diversity of colors on their wings, using these in different way in defense against their main predators, birds. An anti-predation mechanism associated with the coloration pattern - flash coloration - has been suggested, but not yet tested in nature. The flash coloration hypothesis suggests that animals with cryptic coloring that suddenly exposes conspicuous colors during movement reduce the likelihood of being predated by deceiving their predators during a chase. Butterflies of the genus Morpho present a contrasting pattern between the dorsal face of their wings, which is blue, and the ventral face, which is brown. Thus, during the flight, the blue appears and disappears constantly with the opening and closing of the wings. The purpose of this study is to test whether the color pattern found in Morpho helenor butterflies, which varies dynamically during flight, reduces bird predation. To test this hypothesis, we will do two experiments in order to modify this color pattern, canceling the contrasting difference between the ventral and dorsal sides of this butterfly's wings. Our hypothesis is that, in both experiments, individuals with an altered color pattern will experience greater predation pressure. (AU)