Photograph - Fine Art Digital Prints - Photography
This lovely Longwing butterfly is a Heliconius numata longwing. They are a widespread species, found from Panama to Bolivia. The colorful Amazonian butterfly has seven different wing color patterns, each of which mimics the wing patterns of seven different species in the genus Melinaea. The reason for this mimicry is biological warfare. Melinaea caterpillars eat plants in the deadly nightshade family and sequester their host plant's poisons in their tissues. These accumulated poisons make Melinaea butterflies toxic to birds, who learn to associate specific wing patterns with a sickening meal. By adopting the same warning patterns as their toxic Melinaea butterfly neighbors, Numata butterflies also benefit.
But Heliconius numata are also toxic to birds, but they rely on a different poison: their caterpillars feed on toxic plants in the passion flower family. This evolutionary phenomenon where two or more harmful species -- such as Heliconius numata and Melinaea -- mimic each other's warning signals is known as Müllerian mimicry. Isn't that so fascinating? Nature's beauty is not simply beauty for itself, but also a form to help survival! I personally really love the warm chestnut orange coloring of these wonderful butterflies!
Heliconius butterflies are characterized by having a very delicate fluttering flight, particularly when hovering around flowers. They commonly nectar at Hamelia, Lantana and Palicourea.
Unlike other butterflies, Heliconius females feed on pollen as well as nectar. Studies have shown that females deprived of pollen can only produce about 15% of the number of eggs laid by females that have access to it.
Much of this information is derived from www.learnaboutbutterflies.com and theguardian.com/science: "Supergene controls butterfly mimicry"
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