by Koaw - June, 2017 

External link to my YouTube video on the morpho.

The genus Morpho contains approximately 29 species and 147 subspecies of butterflies. In Costa Rica, there are six species of Morpho. This is a subspecies of Morpho helenor and it has some amazing defense adaptations.

This professional butterfly handler displays the aposematic colorations on the ventral side of the wings. Aposematic colorations are easily visible traits to warn away predators – or in other words, Nature’s way of saying “Back off, I’m dangerous!” (Even if it is a bluff, which is true in this case, as the butterflies of Morpho are not toxic and easily palatable.)

Imagine that you are a hungry bird and you see the head of a snake! That might deter you.
Or maybe you see the underside of the butterfly and suddenly see the glaring eyes of an owl! That would cause you to think twice.


Mimicking a species with strong defenses (like the snake and owl) is known as Batesian mimicry.


The large eyespots may also be a form of automimicry, where a predator may attack the less vulnerable wing tip than the butterfly’s own head, giving the butterfly a chance to fly away with its life.

And alas, the bright blue, glistening dorsal wings may seem very conspicuous and easy for predators to spot—but this may be a form of pursuit aposematism—where butterflies with these bright blue wings may be too agile and tricky to catch, and over time, predators have learned to mostly avoid wasting energy catching the nimble prey.

Nature is in a constant evolutionary arms race—predators vs. prey—and there are some fascinating battles going on.

Keep loving the beautiful chaos of nature. -K

 

 

Main References

BOLDSYSTEMS. (2017). Morpho (genus). Retrieved from http://www.boldsystems.org/index.php/TaxBrowser_Taxonpage?taxid=7105

Edmunds, M. (1974). Defence in Animals: a survey of anti-predator defences. Longman.

Rica, M. N. (2017, May). La mariposa "morfo". Retrieved from http://www.museocostarica.go.cr/es_cr/con-zcalos/mariposa-morfo.html?Itemid=118

Wikipedia. (2017, May). Morpho. Retrieved from Wikipedia: The Free Encyclodpedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpho