Butterfly tricks ants into caring for its young
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
January 3, 2008
Studying Maculinea alcon, a beautiful blue butterfly, in the marshes of Denmark, David R. Nash and colleagues found that Alcon butterflies fool Myrmica ants into raising their young, by having larvae with an outer coating that mimics that of the ants. The ants care for the Alcon blue butterfly caterpillars — an ant colony parasite — to the detriment of their own offspring.
The researchers say the observed differences in patterns of surface chemistry of caterpillars between locations "indicate an ongoing coevolutionary arms race between the butterflies and Myrmica" ants.
Nash and colleagues say the findings should be considered when reintroducing the threatened Alcon blue butterfly into the wild.
CITATION: Nash, D.R. (2007). A Mosaic of Chemical Coevolution in a Large Blue Butterfly. Science Express January 4, 2008