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Unpalatability of Viceroy Butterflies (Limenitis archippus) and Their Purported Mimicry Models, Florida Queens (Danaus gilippus)

David B. Ritland
Oecologia
Vol. 88, No. 1 (1991), pp. 102-108
Published by: Springer in cooperation with International Association for Ecology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4219759
Page Count: 7
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Unpalatability of Viceroy Butterflies (Limenitis archippus) and Their Purported Mimicry Models, Florida Queens (Danaus gilippus)
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Abstract

Understanding the dynamics of defensive mimicry requires accurately characterizing the comparative palatability of putative models and mimics. The Florida viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus floridensis) is traditionally considered a palatable Batesian mimic of the purportedly distasteful Florida queen (Danaus gilippus berenice). I re-evaluated this established hypothesis by directly assessing palatability of viceroys and queens to red-winged blackbirds in a laboratory experiment. Representative Florida viceroys were suprisingly unpalatable to red-wings; only 40% of viceroy abdomens were entirely eaten (compared to 98% of control butterfly abdomens), and nearly one-third were immediately taste-rejected after a single peck. In fact, the viceroys were significantly more unpalatable than representative Florida queens, of which 65% were eaten and 14% taste-rejected. Thus, viceroys and queens from the sampled populations exemplify Müllerian rather than Batesian mimicry, and the viceroy appears to be the stronger model. These findings prompt a reassessment of the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of this classic mimicry relationship.

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