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This paper investigates the relationship between environment and behaviour in a butterfly.

Adult butterflies are highly visual animals, relying on their keen eyesight to locate and identify appropriate mates by looking at and comparing their wing colours and patterns. Many butterflies show variations in wing colours and patterns depending upon the season they experienced as caterpillars or whilst cocooning. Knowing this, it is reasonable to assume that differences in wing colours and patterns (known as polyphenisms) could affect how adult butterflies interact with each other. But do wing polyphenisms affect adult butterfly behaviours? If so, how?

Dr Katy Prudic, and her postdoctoral advisor, Dr Antónia Monteiro, researchers in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Yale University, investigated the relationship between the environment and behaviour in the east African butterfly species, the squinting bush brown butterfly, Bicyclus anynana.

Even though this butterfly species has been bred and raised in captivity for 30 years, Dr Prudic was the first person to notice that female B. anynana appeared to be colour-coded according to season. When the adult butterfly holds its wings closed, as when perched on a flower, the exposed dorsal wing surfaces show distinct seasonal differences: adult butterflies that experienced a wet warm season as caterpillars have brighter and more numerous eyespots (figure 1A) than those seen in the cooler dry season form (figure 1B):

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