ABS 2022
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Anti-predatory behavior of toxic butterflies in response to predatory bird calls
Sushant Potdar, Erica L. Westerman. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, United States

Prey-predator interactions have resulted in the evolution of many anti-predatory traits. One of them is the ability for prey to listen for predators and subsequently avoid them. In insects, responses to auditory predator signals are well known in moths, but studies on butterfly audition are relatively rare. Heliconius butterflies are toxic, aposematic and form Mullerian mimicry rings as defense strategies against their avian predators. They also possess auditory organs, which are hypothesized to have evolved to assist with predator detection. To test this hypothesis, we used Heliconius melpomene plessini butterflies and exposed them to calls of their avian predators: Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Eastern Kingbird, and Tropical Kingbird, to see if they changed their behavior in response to these calls. We found that H. m. plessini changed their behavior in response to Jacamar calls only. Males increased their flying behavior, while females increased their fluttering behavior during Jacamar call. Our findings suggest that H. m. plessini can listen and differentiate between bird calls, and that Heliconius butterflies may be under greater predation pressure from Jacamar compared to Kingbirds.