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Adaptive Polymorphism Associated with Multiple Müllerian Mimicry in Heliconius numata (Lepid. Nymph.)

Keith S. Brown, Jr. and Woodruff W. Benson
Biotropica
Vol. 6, No. 4 (Dec., 1974), pp. 205-228
DOI: 10.2307/2989666
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2989666
Page Count: 24
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Adaptive Polymorphism Associated with Multiple Müllerian Mimicry in Heliconius numata (Lepid. Nymph.)
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Abstract

The unpalatable butterfly Heliconius numata is polymorphic over most of its range in South America, with as many as seven recognizably different mimetic morphs occurring in a single population. This widespread polymorphism, unexpected in a Müllerian mimic, appears to be maintained in part by the heterogeneous distribution in space and time of much more abundant ithomiine butterflies, which are distasteful sympatric co-mimics of the various numata forms. Thus, under certain environmental conditions; polymorphism, which is typical of palatable Batesian mimics, can also be selectively advantageous in relatively uncommon species of unpalatable Müllerian mimics.

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