In a Nutshell Blog
Mimicry in the Butterfly Garden
Mimicry is when one species looks like another, often because the resemblance leads to a survival benefit. A classic example of mimicry is the similar appearance of the Monarch butterfly and the Viceroy butterfly. Many students might recall studying these species.
Monarch caterpillars consume milkweed leaves that contain a chemical toxic to birds. Viceroy caterpillars also build up toxins from the plant leaves they eat. The chemical builds up in the caterpillar and stays in the adult, which leads them to have a serious defense against getting eaten by birds. Birds likely recognize the general pattern and avoid butterflies with the orange and black-striped wings. Both butterfly species benefit from looking like each other.
But can you spot the differences? Which species is Butterfly A and which is Butterfly B?
One important visual difference is the pattern of lines on the lower wings (hindwings). Once you think you can tell them apart, you can check the answer at the bottom of this post.
The caterpillars look nothing alike and actually feed on totally different plants.
Answer: Butterfly A is the Viceroy, Butterfly B is the Monarch
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