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Kin recognition in immatures of Heliconius erato phyllis (Lepidoptera; Nymphalidae)

De Nardin, Janaína, de Araújo, Aldo Mellender
Journal of ethology 2011 v.29 no.3 pp. 499-503
Heliconius erato, butterflies, cannibalism, eggs, evolution, females, hatching, immatures, insect larvae, instars, kin recognition, kin selection, laboratory experimentation, siblings, tropics
Females of the neotropical butterfly Heliconius erato phyllis lay eggs individually, which, after hatching into caterpillars, can be cannibalistic towards neighboring eggs. Laboratory experiments were conducted to test for kin recognition between first instar caterpillars and eggs. Two experiments were performed, putting three eggs in the vertices of an equilateral triangle made of green paper with side length of 0.5 cm. In the first experiment, two of the three eggs were full siblings; in the second experiment, one group consisted of three eggs from three independent nonrelated females, and in the other group all three eggs were full siblings. The frequency of cannibalism in experiment 1 (SSN, sibling–sibling–nonsibling) was 66% for nonrelated eggs and 34% for sibling eggs (P = 0.0018). In experiment 2, in group NNN (three nonsibling eggs) it was 83%, and for group SSS (three sibling eggs), the frequency of cannibalism was 53% (P < 0.0001). These results indicate kin recognition (caterpillar–egg). This recognition may have been important in the evolution of some of the butterfly’s adaptations, and possibly as an opportunity for kin selection.