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Survival Through Mimicry: The Viceroy Butterfly

The survival of Viceroy butterflies in all of their life stages is significantly enhanced by mimicry.  A Viceroy egg resembles a tiny plant gall.  Both larva and pupa bear a striking resemblance to bird droppings.  And the similarity of a Viceroy to a Monarch is well known. For years it was thought that this mimicry was Batesian in nature – a harmless organism (Viceroy) mimicking a poisonous (Monarch) or harmful one in order to avoid a mutual predator.  However, recently it’s been discovered that the Viceroy butterfly is as unpalatable as the Monarch, which means that  mimicry in its adult stage is technically Mullerian – both organisms are unpalatable/noxious and have similar warning mechanisms, such as the adult butterfly’s coloring.

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5 responses

  1. Sarah G Burger

    Very interesting:Monarch and viceroy. Sarah

    July 22, 2019 at 10:44 am

  2. Wow….it is true that both butterflies are unpalatable in all stages, or just the adult stage when they become butterflies.

    July 22, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    • Great question, and I don’t know the answer to it,
      Barbara. Definitely the adult stage.

      July 22, 2019 at 1:35 pm

  3. Joan Oppenheimer

    Naturally Wonderful photos and information. thank you again.

    July 22, 2019 at 3:19 pm

  4. Alice

    Look so much alike. Story: when my grand daughter & daughter were here, this past Friday, we found so many eggs & lots of just hatched Monarch caterpillars, on my Milkweed. I’d been very excited by the eggs…now, I can’t find caterpillars. Saturday morning, I brought them 8 to 10, no more than 8″ high tender Milkweeds, coming up in the lawn, so they wouldn’t get mowed. We counted 3 eggs. Today, Monday afternoon, she has 6 caterpillars! What a fun thing to share. My iPad photos do not compare with your beautiful closeups, Mary, but it’s still exciting. 2 Monarchs here, this am.

    July 22, 2019 at 4:29 pm

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