Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 465–475

Developmental plasticity and acclimation both contribute to adaptive responses to alternating seasons of plenty and of stress in Bicyclus butterflies

Open AccessArticle

DOI: 10.1007/s12038-007-0046-8

Cite this article as:
Brakefield, P.M., Pijpe, J. & Zwaan, B.J. J Biosci (2007) 32: 465. doi:10.1007/s12038-007-0046-8


Plasticity is a crucial component of the life cycle of invertebrates that live as active adults throughout wet and dry seasons in the tropics. Such plasticity is seen in the numerous species of Bicyclus butterflies in Africa which exhibit seasonal polyphenism with sequential generations of adults with one or other of two alternative phenotypes. These differ not only in wing pattern but in many other traits. This divergence across a broad complex of traits is associated with survival and reproduction either in a wet season that is favourable in terms of resources, or mainly in a dry season that is more stressful. This phenomenon has led us to examine the bases of the developmental plasticity in a model species, B. anynana, and also the evolution of key adult life history traits, including starvation resistance and longevity. We now understand something about the processes that generate variation in the phenotype, and also about the ecological context of responses to environmental stress. The responses clearly involve a mix of developmental plasticity as cued by different environments in pre-adult development, and the acclimation of life history traits in adults to their prevailing environment.


Acclimationinsect hormonelongevityseasonal polyphenismstarvation resistance
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© Indian Academy of Sciences 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul M Brakefield
    • 1
  • Jeroen Pijpe
    • 1
  • Bas J Zwaan
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of BiologyLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands