A century old mystery has been solved by a new study showing how butterflies mimic the wing patterns of other species to escape being eaten by birds. The study is published today in the international journal Nature.
Dr Siu Fai (Ronald) Lee from the Department of Genetics and Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne, travelled to the UK to join the research team, led by scientists at CNRS (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris) and the University of Exeter (UK).
Researchers studied the Amazonian butterfly Heliconius numata to understand how it imitates other species with an equally unpleasant taste. This trick is known as Müllerian mimicry; a predator that has learned to avoid an organism with certain markings, will avoid all similar-looking species.