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Seriously, we're poisonous: Coloration is an honest signal of toxicity in poison frogs
Date:1/4/2012

to butterflies from the genus Heliconius, which are toxic and bad-tasting to avian predators. The mimics' resemblance to their toxic cousins helps keep the birds at bay, but if the disguises are good enough to fool predators, how do the butterflies themselves tell who's who when it comes time for mating? The answer, according to research led by Seth Bybee (U.C. Irvine and BYU), is ultraviolet pigmentand the ability to distinguish it. Bybee and his colleagues found that some species of Heliconius have two copies of a gene known as the UV opsin gene. "Opsins are part of the visual pigments that allow animals to see, and the duplicated genes allow Heliconius to discriminate ultraviolet colors better than other butterflies," Bybee said. Heliconius wings also reflect ultraviolet-yellow, the researchers found, making them conspicuous to the Heliconius visual system, but not to the visual systems of other butterflies. "The enhanced ultraviolet vision, together with the ultraviolet-yellow wing pigments may allow poisonous Heliconius butterflies a private communication channel for members of their own species, while still allowing butterflies to fool their predators," Bybee said.

Seth M. Bybee, Furong Yuan, Monica D. Ramstetter, Jorge Llorente-Bousquets, Robert D. Reed, Daniel Osorio, Adriana D. Briscoe, "UV Photoreceptors and UV-Yellow Wing Pigments in Heliconius Butterflies Allow a Color Signal to Serve both Mimicry and Intraspecific Communication." The American Naturalist 179:1 (January 2012).


Researchers show how a nest parasite can be a good thing for an ant colony

When the parasitic fly Microdon mutabilis infects an ant colony, its larvae feed on the colony's unhatched eggs and young larvae, significantly reducing the size of the brood. While this might sound unequivocally like a bad thing, there's an unexpected upside. Colonies infected by the parasite have been shown to pro
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Contact: Kevin Stacey
kstacey@press.uchicago.edu
401-284-3878
University of Chicago Press Journals
Source:Eurekalert  

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