Emperor Butterfly may have survived a bird attack thanks to protective mimicry

Subject: Perhaps a Tawny Emperor Butterfly?
Location: Coryell County, Texas
October 4, 2013 4:59 pm
Hello, this damaged butterfly enjoyed the damp food it found on this red-tip photinia today. It stayed for the longest time. I think it may be an emperor butterfly, perhaps a Tawny Emperor?
http://bugguide.net/node/view/410895
Thank you!
Signature: Ellen

Did eyespots save this Emperor Butterfly from a Bird????
Did eyespots save this Emperor Butterfly from a Bird????

Hi Ellen,
This is definitely an Emperor, but we cannot say for certain which species.  We are much more intrigued with the wing damage than we are with the exact species.  The shape and symmetry of the wing damage has caused us to speculate that this Emperor survived the attack of a bird.  The eyespots on the wings may have confused a predator that took a chunk from the wings after having mistaken the rear end of the butterfly for its head.  This looks like an excellent example of protective mimicry in action.

Emperor Butterfly
Emperor Butterfly

 

2 thoughts on “Emperor Butterfly may have survived a bird attack thanks to protective mimicry”

  1. Eyespots, wonderful!
    I also thought, “Bird Attack!” when I saw this butterfly. This red-tip hedge (of my neighbors) is patrolled by a mockingbird who was singing nearby while I took photos. I wonder…

    Reply
  2. Eyespots, wonderful!
    I also thought, “Bird Attack!” when I saw this butterfly. This red-tip hedge (of my neighbors) is patrolled by a mockingbird who was singing nearby while I took photos. I wonder…

    Reply

Leave a Comment