, Volume 88, Issue 1, pp 102–108

Unpalatability of viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) and their purported mimicry models, Florida queens (Danaus gilippus)

  • David B. Ritland
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF00328409

Cite this article as:
Ritland, D.B. Oecologia (1991) 88: 102. doi:10.1007/BF00328409


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 surprisingly 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 tasterejected 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.

Key words

Defensive mimicryBatesian mimicryMüllerian mimicryAvian behaviorChemical defense

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • David B. Ritland
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA