Auditory defence in the peacock butterfly (Inachis io) against mice (Apodemus flavicollis and A. sylvaticus)
- 427 Downloads
Morphological and behavioural traits can serve as anti-predator defence either by reducing detection or recognition risks, or by thwarting initiated attacks. The latter defence is secondary and often involves a ‘startle display’ comprising a sudden release of signals targeting more than one sensory modality. A suggested candidate for employing a multimodal defence is the peacock butterfly, Inachis io, which, by wing-flicking suddenly, produces sonic and ultrasonic sounds and displays four large eyespots when attacked. The eyespots make small birds retreat, but whether the sounds produced thwart predator attacks is largely unknown. Peacocks hibernate as adults in dark wintering sites and employ their secondary defence upon encounter with small rodent predators during this period. In this study, we staged predator–prey encounters in complete darkness in the laboratory between wild mice, Apodemus flavicollis and Apodemus sylvaticus, and peacocks which had their sound production intact or disabled. Results show that mice were more likely to flee from sound-producing butterflies than from butterflies which had their sound production disabled. Our study presents experimental evidence that the peacock butterfly truly employs a multimodal defence with different traits targeting different predator groups; the eyespots target birds and the sound production targets small rodent predators.
KeywordsAnti-predator behaviour Multimodal defence Predator–prey interaction Ultrasonic sound Mice Lepidoptera
We thank M. Friberg for statistical advice and U. Kodandaramaiah, B. Tullberg and S. Andersson for valuable comments on the manuscript. We also thank L. Svensson for capture and husbandry of mice.
(MPG 5.02 MB)
(MPG 5.47 MB)
- Brakefield PM, Shreeve TG, Thomas JA (1992) Avoidance, concealment, and defence. In: Dennis RLH (ed) The ecology of butterflies in Britain. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 93–119Google Scholar
- Dvořák L, Belicek J, Fric Z (2002) Observations of overwintering nymphalid butterflies in underground shelters in SW and W Bohemia (Czech Republic) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Nymphalini). J Res Lepidoptera 41:45–52Google Scholar
- Edmunds M (1974) Defence in animals: a survey of anti-predator defences. Longman Ltd., New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Larsen TB (1991) The butterflies of Kenya and their natural history. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Mohl B, Miller LA (1976) Ultrasonic clicks produced by peacock butterfly—possible bat-repellent mechanism. J Exp Biol 64:639–644Google Scholar
- Scott JA (1986) The butterflies of North America: a natural history and field guide. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
- Thomas JA, Lewington R (2010) The butterflies of Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife Publishing Ltd, DorsetGoogle Scholar
- Vane-Wright RI (1986) The snake hiss of hibernating peacocks—audioBatesian mimicry? Antenna 10:5–6Google Scholar
- Wiklund C (2005) Hornet predation on peacock butterflies and ecological aspects on the evolution of complex eyespots on butterfly wings. Entomol Fennica 16:266–272Google Scholar