Mimicry, bird and butterfly vision and its evolutionary implications in Heliconius butterflies.
My PhD research is focus in mimicry and its evolutionary implications in Heliconius butterflies. The colouration and patterns exhibited by different Heliconius species vary geographically, but within a given geographical scale, two or more sympatric species often mimic each other.
These butterflies exhibit UV wing pigments and although visually they have similar colouring, they might appear different to the eyes of both predators and mates.
I’m interested in investigating the visual signalling involving mimicry both from the perspective of butterflies and birds. The hypothesis is that coloration of butterflies should be perceived differently from birds and butterfly vision, and in particular that UV coloration might be a cryptic channel of communication between butterflies of the same species.
I will test whether there are differences in patterns between butterfly co-mimics, not only in terms of human vision colour pattern but also in UV colour pattern. Furthermore, based on predictions regarding visual signal evolution and selective forces, I will include field experiments involving visual perception of both predator (birds) and butterflies under different environment conditions to support the hypothesis.