Visit the
Molecular Expressions Website

Galleria
Photo Gallery
Silicon Zoo
Chip Shots
Screen Savers
Museum
Web Resources
Primer
Java Microscopy
Win Wallpaper
Mac Wallpaper
Publications
Custom Photos
Image Use
Contact Us
Search
Home

Butterfly Wing Scale Digital Image Gallery

Variable Eggfly Butterfly

The variable eggfly butterfly mimics the high contrast black and white wing coloration of three poisonous species of friar butterfly. Wide-ranging in tropical Africa, the variable eggfly and the other members of its mimetic ring are often found flying in mixed groups. Belonging to the family Nymphalidae, variable eggfly butterflies have a highly modified front pair of legs that are used for tasting, rather than walking.

Both palatable and unpalatable butterflies can benefit from participating in mimicry rings. Associated with open areas near forests, the variable eggfly butterfly mimics the design of noxious butterflies, but is itself harmless. The species and other edible butterflies in mimetic rings are able to deter predators with their appearance without synthesizing metabolically costly toxins. Toxic butterflies also benefit from sharing colors with other poisonous species because predators more quickly associate the appearance with negative consequences.

Described scientifically as Hypolimnas anthedon, variable eggfly butterflies are a distinct species that are characterized by specific traits in each of its life stages. The range of the butterflies stretches from the island of Madagascar to the Atlantic Ocean, along Africa's west coast. Variable eggfly adults are characterized by large wings and a slow, graceful flight with long glides. The caterpillars are not so refined, but noisily and rapaciously feed on leaves of stinging nettles in three different African genera. The larvae display a warning coloration, as do the adults, and their primarily black bodies are covered with bright red spines. Variable eggfly chrysalides also display spines, but have a brown, rugged appearance that blends in well with tree trunks, branches, and dried leaves.

Collectors are particularly interested in variable eggfly butterflies and others in its mimetic rings. The species and its associates are raised on butterfly farms in Africa for international markets. The butterflies are part of environmentally friendly sustainable economic development in impoverished portions of eastern and southern Africa, where ecotourism and forest-dependent butterfly farming are rising in popularity. Nature reserves in Kenya, which ban butterfly harvesting, act as refuges for the variable eggfly and its allies. In other areas, however, rampant habitat destruction due to overlogging, overgrazing, intensive farming, and urban encroachment threaten subspecies and local populations of this exotic tropical butterfly.

Contributing Authors

Cynthia D. Kelly, Shannon H. Neaves, Laurence D. Zuckerman, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.


BACK TO THE BUTTERFLY WING SCALE IMAGE GALLERY

BACK TO THE DIGITAL IMAGE GALLERIES

Questions or comments? Send us an email.
© 1995-2013 by Michael W. Davidson and The Florida State University. All Rights Reserved. No images, graphics, software, scripts, or applets may be reproduced or used in any manner without permission from the copyright holders. Use of this website means you agree to all of the Legal Terms and Conditions set forth by the owners.
This website is maintained by our
Graphics & Web Programming Team
in collaboration with Optical Microscopy at the
National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
Last Modification Friday, Aug 01, 2003 at 11:43 AM
Access Count Since January 21, 2003: 6547
Visit the website of our partner in introductory microscopy education: