Skip to content

We are all phenotypes! butterflies included😂.

Common mime (Papilio clytia form clytia), Chiang Dao, Thailand. Photograph by Raymond JC Cannon

We are all phenotypes! A phenotype is what is produced by the interaction of our genetic code (genotype) with the environment. That is, the environment in the fullest sense of the word; i.e. all of the biological and non-biological things that surround us from the moment we start to develop; from egg to adult. Males and females are different phenotypes, and they often differ considerably from each, in more ways than one! It’s called sexual dimorphism.

Common mime (Papilio clytia form dissimilis) Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photograph by Raymond JC Cannon

What results from this interaction of genes and the material world, is you, me, your pet cat, the butterfly flying past on a summer’s day, and every living creature on planet earth! And what is created by this confluence of genetic code with the material world, can vary considerably.

We see it very clearly in the case of butterflies. Many butterfly species have different forms, or morphs, which are produced from the same genome. Sometimes, the differences are subtle, like the shape and colour patterns of the wing, or different visual abilities; but in other cases the phenotypes (or ‘forms’) look very different indeed. These forms have often evolved in female butterflies, as a way of protecting themselves from predation. In these so-called, mimetic forms, they have evolved to look like other, poisonous or unpalatable species, to gain a degree of protection.

Common mime (Papilio clytia form dissimilis) Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photograph by Raymond JC Cannon

One example, is the common mime which has two, very distinct mimetic forms (in both sexes). One form, the so-called nominate form (because it was the first one to be described), is called Papilio clytia form clytia (see below), and is said to mimic the common crow (Euploea core). I tend to take these mimicry claims with a pinch of salt. Mimicry of one sort or another is certainly going on, but there are many similar species and I think the situation is more fluid than we often realise.

Common mime (Papilio clytia form clytia). Chiang Dao, Thailand. Photograph by Raymond JC Cannon

Here is a common crow (Euploea core possibly E. core haworthi) from Bali (below). Perhaps it is worth saying that the ‘crow’ butterflies are inedible and therefore mimicked by other butterflies (see Batesian mimicry). Both model and mimic are the same shade of brown!

Common crow, Euploea core possibly E. core haworthi (Lucas, 1853) Bali. Photograph by Raymond JC Cannon

The other phenotype of the common mime is called form dissimilis (below), which is said to mimic the blue tiger (Tirumala limniace) (second below).

Common mime (Papilio clytia form dissimilis) Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photograph by Raymond JC Cannon

I think that form dissimilis is probably is a rather generalised mimic of the so-called ‘tiger’ butterflies, probably an ‘imperfect mimic; (see Quick, 2017). So, perhaps it gains protection from many Tigers! Such as the Blue Glassy Tiger the Dark Glassy Tiger (below), and others as well.

Broad Blue Tiger (Tirumala limniace) female. Chiang Dao, Thailand. Photograph by Raymond JC Cannon
Dark blue tiger (Tirumala septentrionis), Chiang Dao, Thailand. Photograph by Raymond JC Cannon
Glassy tiger (Parantica aglea) Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photograph by Raymond JC Cannon

So to conclude, nature is complicated, messy and fluid. It is forever shifting; changing to circumstances as the occur; genomes interacting with the environment to produce different forms. Or as Darwin put it: “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”


Quicke, D. L. (2017). Mimicry, crypsis, masquerade and other adaptive resemblances. John Wiley & Sons.

Soon to be published book!


rcannon992 View All

I am an entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Think Like A Plant

A personal blog of a plant lover

The Five Species Challenge

Biodiversity recording for beginners


a celebration of nature

The Carrs Wetland Project

Farming, Landscape, Heritage and Conservation

jidjottings, by Lowell A. Goldsmith, MD

Musings on skin and the universe


Thailand's amazing insects photographed in the forests around Chiang Mai

Tangled Bank

The natural world, inclusive bushcraft, evidence-based environmentalism

The Quagga

Science Blog of the SciComm Students @ Natural History Museum, Zoological Society of London & University College London

Exploring Colour

New Zealand

Gwen Pearson

Entomologist. Educator. Writer. Nerd.

Davina's observations

Observations of nature and science

Michael Whitehead

Plants, pollination, evolution, ecology, natural history.

The year of the fly

Exploring the families of British Diptera

Jonathan Pomroy

Wildlife & Landscape Artist

the glyptodon

Stories of natural history


Research blog of Renee Rossini

Notes on a Spanish Valley

Award-winning blog - Living in rural Andalucia

The Art of Blogging

For bloggers who aspire to inspire

walter sanford's photoblog

Showcasing some of my digital photography and videography.

%d bloggers like this: