Butterfly eyespots are complex morphological traits that can vary in size, shape and color composition even on the same wing surface. Homology among eyespots suggests they share a common developmental basis and function as an integrated unit in response to selection. Despite strong evidence of genetic integration, eyespots can also exhibit modularity or plasticity, indicating an underlying flexibility in pattern development. The extent to which particular eyespots or eyespot color elements exhibit modularity or integration is poorly understood, particularly following exposure to novel conditions. We used perturbation experiments to explore phenotypic correlations among different eyespots and their color elements on the ventral hindwing of V. cardui. Specifically, we identified which eyespots and eyespot features are most sensitive to perturbation by heat shock and injection of heparin—a cold shock mimic. For both treatments, the two central eyespots (3 + 4) were most affected by the experimental perturbations, whereas the outer eyespot border was more resistant to modification than the interior color elements. Overall, the individual color elements displayed a similar response to heat shock across all eyespots, but varied in their response to each other. Graphical modeling also revealed that although eyespots differ morphologically, regulation of eyespot size and colored elements appear to be largely integrated across the wing. Patterns of integration, however, were disrupted following heat shock, revealing that the strength of integration varies across the wing and is strongest between the two central eyespots. These findings support previous observations that document coupling between eyespots 3 + 4 in other nymphalid butterflies.
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Connahs, Heidi; Rhen, Turk; and Simmons, Rebecca, "Physiological Perturbation Reveals Modularity of Eyespot Development in the Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui" (2016). Biology Faculty Publications. 6.