Date of this Version
Halbritter, D.A., J.M. Gordon, K.L. Keacher, M.L. Avery, and J.C. Daniels. 2018. Evaluating an alleged mimic of the monarch butterfly: Neophasia (Lepidoptera: Pieridae) butterflies are palatable to avian predators. Insects 9(4):150. doi: 10.3390/insects9040150
Some taxa have adopted the strategy of mimicry to protect themselves from predation. Butterflies are some of the best representatives used to study mimicry, with the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) a well-known model. We are the first to empirically investigate a proposed mimic of the monarch butterfly: Neophasia terlooii, the Mexican pine white butterfly (Lepidoptera: Pieridae). We used captive birds to assess the palatability of N. terlooii and its sister species, N. menapia, to determine the mimicry category that would best fit this system. The birds readily consumed both species of Neophasia and a palatable control species but refused to eat unpalatable butterflies such as D. plexippus and Heliconius charithonia (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Given some evidence for mild unpalatability of Neophasia, we discuss the results considering modifications to classic mimicry theory, i.e., a palatability-based continuum between Batesian and Müllerian mimicry, with a quasi-Batesian intermediate. Understanding the ecology of Neophasia in light of contemporary and historical sympatry with D. plexippus could shed light on the biogeography of, evolution of, and predation pressure on the monarch butterfly, whose migration event has become a conservation priority.