Phenotypic plasticity and fluctuating asymmetry as responses to environmental stress in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana

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Butterflies of the genus Bicyclus inhabiting wet-dry seasonal environments in Africa express striking seasonal polyphenism. This paper describes this example of phenotypic plasticity in the context of an evolutionary response to alternative seasons, one of which is favourable for growth and reproduction while the other is a stress environment, limiting in terms of larval growth and adult survival. The seasonal forms reflect alternative adult phenotypes which involve both morphological (wing pattern) and life history traits. The genetic and physiological coupling of these traits involves mediation by a common hormonal system. Finally, I show that the eyespot patterns on the wings of these butterflies also offer potential for studying the mechanisms of fluctuating asymmetry and its interactions with environmental stress.