Habitat segregation among mimetic ithomiine butterflies (Nymphalidae)
Dr. Ryan Hill: 0000-0001-8513-6545
The extensive wing pattern diversity observed among sympatric unpalatable mimetic butterflies is difficult to explain. Diversity is a paradox because selection by predators is expected to drive local species to use the same aposematic patterns. Habitat segregation among mimicry complexes has been suggested as a hypothesis to explain how diversity could be maintained. However, very few studies have tested this hypothesis. To test whether mimicry complexes are associated with particular habitats, I sampled a diverse assemblage of ithomiine butterflies from eastern Ecuador comprising nine discrete mimicry complexes. Butterflies were sampled in four habitats varying along a gradient of succession. A total of 43 species and 902 individuals were sampled. Ithomiine species richness and abundance were lowest in open habitats, and habitat preferences were documented for many species. Mimicry complexes exhibited significant habitat differences supporting the role of habitat segregation in maintaining mimetic diversity. However, there was obvious overlap among mimicry complexes, particularly involving the two numerically dominant patterns at the site. The pattern of segregation appears to be driven by common species, with relatively little evidence that the distribution of rarer species matches that of the more abundant species. Thus, habitat segregation is likely to play a role in the evolution of mimetic diversity as a result of segregated abundant model species, but the effect is probably weak and other factors are also important.
Hill, R. I.
Habitat segregation among mimetic ithomiine butterflies (Nymphalidae).
Evolutionary Ecology, 24(2), 273–285.