Nature Strategy: Aposematism

Today, I want to talk about an important strategy in nature, called aposematism. Aposematism is the use of a warning coloration, used by creatures to warn predators that they are dangerous and should be avoided.  Here are a couple of pictures of aposematic coloration: Larvaes of White-tipped Cycadian Butterfly (Eumaeus godartii), a Poison-dart Frog (Oophaga pumilio) and a Coral Snake (Micrurus nigrocinctus). This warning signal is beneficial for the predator and prey in order to recognize and avoid potential harm.

White-tipped Cycadian Larvae Aposematism

White-tipped Cycadian Larvae with warning coloration

Poison-dart Frog Aposematism

Poison-dart Frog with its warning coloration

Coral Snake Aposematism

Coral Snake with its warning coloration

White-tipped Cycadian Metamorphosis

For over a month I followed the transformation process of the beautiful White-tipped Cycadian (Eumaeus godartii). These butterflies are very common at Tranquilo Bay.  During this time, I measured and took pictures of these colorful caterpillars to record the progress in their development, from a little caterpillar, to the moment when they finally finish their metamorphosis and turn in to elegant butterflies.

The life cycle of this species is associated with a very primitive plant, the Zamia, that belongs to the Cycadales order. Cycads contain toxins that this type of butterfly probably uses as a chemical defense.

This caterpillar feeds exclusively on the plant where its eggs where laid and always stays in groups very close to each other.  They eat constantly and grow fast.  At the end of the caterpillar stage they secrete a silky white string that holds them underneath the leaves, where they turn into pupas and then the butterfly will emerge from it.

 Larvies of White-tipped Cycadian (eumaeus godartii)

White-tipped Cycadian Larvae

White-tipped Cycadian larvae about to turn into pupa

White-tipped Cycadian larvae about to turn into pupa

White-tipped Cycadian Pupa

White-tipped Cycadian Pupa

White-tipped Cycadian Butterfly and Pupa stages

White-tipped Cycadian in Butterfly and Pupa stages

White-tipped Cycadian Butterflies Emerging

White-tipped Cycadian Butterflies Emerging