A1 Journal article (refereed)
Transparency reduces predator detection in mimetic clearwing butterflies (2019)

Arias, M., Mappes, J., Desbois, C., Gordon, S., McClure, M., Elias, M., Nokelainen, O., & Gomez, D. (2019). Transparency reduces predator detection in mimetic clearwing butterflies. Functional Ecology, 33(6), 1110-1119. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13315

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsArias, Mónica; Mappes, Johanna; Desbois, Charlotte; Gordon, Swanne; McClure, Melanie; Elias, Marianne; Nokelainen, Ossi; Gomez, Doris

Journal or seriesFunctional Ecology



Publication year2019


Issue number6

Pages range1110-1119

PublisherWiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Publication countryUnited Kingdom

Publication languageEnglish


Research data linkhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.17pk7v8

Publication open accessNot open

Publication channel open access

Publication is parallel published (JYX)https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/64527

Additional informationData available from the Dryad Digital Repository.


1. Predation is an important selective pressure, and some prey have evolved conspicuous warning signals that advertise unpalatability (i.e., aposematism) as an antipredator defence. Conspicuous colour patterns have been shown effective as warning signals, by promoting predator learning and memory. Unexpectedly, some butterfly species from the unpalatable tribe Ithomiini possess transparent wings, a feature rare on land but common in water, known to reduce predator detection.
2. We tested whether transparency of butterfly wings was associated with decreased detectability by predators, by comparing four butterfly species exhibiting different degrees of transparency, ranging from fully opaque to largely transparent. We tested our prediction using both wild birds and humans in behavioural experiments. Vision modelling predicted butterfly detectability to be similar for these two predator types.
3. In concordance with predictions, the most transparent species were almost never found first and were detected less often than the opaque species by both birds and humans, suggesting that transparency enhances crypsis. However, humans were able to learn to better detect the more transparent species over time.
4. Our study demonstrates for the first time that transparency on land likely decreases detectability by visual predators.

Keywordsprotective colorationwarning colorationtransparencyLepidopteramilkweed butterfliescitizen scienceexperiment

Free keywordsaposematic; bird; crypsis; detectability; Ithomiini; vision modelling

Contributing organizations

Related projects

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2019

JUFO rating2

Last updated on 2024-11-05 at 20:46