Ant-attended aphids

Many homopteran species, including aphids, have evolved mutualistic relationships with ants. Such symbiotic relationships are beneficial to both species and will endure as long as the costs do not outweigh the benefits. The basic parameters of this mutualism are that the aphids provide the ants with a source of food – their honeydew secretions –…

A trick of the tail!

When we look at an organism, we see a host of different adaptations which have evolved to improve or enhance the fitness and survival of that species. One such trait is the detachable tail of lizards. In a life or death moment, many lizards are able to shed all or part of their tail. The…

Stabilmenta: spider’s web decorations

Stabilmenta are conspicuous patterns or decorations made by spiders – particularly orb-web spiders – in their webs. Google ‘stabilmenta’ (singular: stabilmentum) and you will see many wonderful examples of these structures, including crosses, spirals, zigzags and so on. There are a number of different theories as to why spiders make these structures, including: to attract…

Bright iridescent patches are honest signals!

Males butterflies in the family Lycaenidae, the so-called Blues, typically have brightly coloured, iridescent colours on the upper (dorsal) surfaces of their wings. Vivid blue iridescence such as this on the Purple Sapphire (Heliophorus epicles) shown here, is usually to do with courtship and mate recognition. The brightly coloured, iridescent males rely on so-called, structural colouration (described below), which…

Bluff and deception in Blues

The Longbanded Silverline (Spindasis lohita), Family Lycaenidae, is a beautiful insect with a remarkable structure – a tail, or ‘false head’ – at the end of its hind wing. There is a bright orange tornal patch – the tornus is the posterior corner of the butterfly wing – on both sides of the wing. There is also a…

Dragons on the beach

There’s not an awful lot to say about Komodo dragons, other than the fact that they are a huge lizard – the biggest in the world – and give us an indication of the reptilian megafauna that once stalked the earth. They are not creatures I think anyone could find attractive. Respect, admiration and awe,…

Watch out little butterfly!

A little butterfly skipping from flower to flower in the late afternoon sunshine. Enjoying little sips of nectar. Seemingly oblivious to the cares of this world. Yet there lurks a trap for this innocent little sprite. A spider has cast its net. Nature is not nice, or sweet. The innocent get consumed. Do the fittest…

Wood Whites go A-Courting!

In 1988, it was discovered that the Wood White butterfly (Leptidea sinapis (Linnaeus, 1758)) was actually two species, largely overlapping in their habitats, but virtually identical and only distinguishable by microscopic observation of their genital! (3) These so-called cryptic species are widespread in their distribution and occur together throughout the European continent, from the Iberian Peninsula to the Urals…

Peck me here! Butterfly predation.

It is said that  50% of wild butterflies are killed and eaten before they get a chance to mate and reproduce (1). Poor things! One way to avoid being eaten is to divert the lethal pecks of predatory birds towards body parts that can be sacrificed in the interests of survival. Obtaining direct evidence for…