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Where are Heliconius butterflies found?

Where are Heliconius butterflies found?

Science

Commonly known as the small postman, the red passion flower butterfly, or the crimson-patched longwing, the Heliconius erato encompasses a vibrant and broadly distributed group of butterflies. Moreover, often referred to as longwings or heliconians. These butterflies can become found across the warmer and tropical areas of the Americas. Ranging from the southern parts of the United States down to the southern reaches of South America.

Today we look at CSU Long Beach’s Dr. Susan Finkbeiner’s work Evidence for Communal Roost Size Regulation in Heliconius erato Butterflies, which explores the communal roosting behavior of Heliconius erato butterflies and posits that these butterflies may regulate the size of their roosts and show a preference for certain roost sizes.

Susan Finkbeiner, Ph.D.

Conducted in both controlled and natural settings, the research indicates that H. erato butterflies have a propensity to join small to medium-sized groups, often avoiding larger aggregations.

Initial observations in captivity revealed that newly introduced butterflies gravitate towards smaller or medium-sized groups, typically resulting in roosts holding three or five members. Conversely, larger roosts consisting of ten members were less appealing. Complementary field experiments demonstrated that H. erato butterflies tend to vacate overly crowded natural roosts, opting to establish smaller groups instead.

Further supporting the research, Dr. Finkbeiner observed that butterflies moving from an existing roost to form a new one often stay together. This behavior suggests a pattern of roost recruitment and following behavior within the population, aligning with previous research indicating that these butterflies frequently and systematically engage in such dynamics.

The alignment of the butterflies’ preferred roost size with the average size of natural roosts is a significant discovery of this study. Which interestingly coincides with the optimal group size for anti-predatory benefits identified in prior studies. Furthermore, this correlation implies that there could become an evolutionarily determined optimal roost size that H. erato butterflies instinctively adhere to.

The findings contribute to our understanding of the social dynamics of communal roosting in H. erato butterflies. It provides behavioral evidence that these butterflies may self-regulate the size of their roosts, potentially as an adaptive mechanism. The study encourages further investigation into the cognitive processes behind this behavior, offering an intriguing insight into the social decision-making of Heliconius butterflies.

Read the full paper: (PDF) Evidence for Communal Roost Size Regulation in Heliconius erato Butterflies (Nymphalidae) (researchgate.net)

Where are Heliconius butterflies found?