Scientists discovered butterflies, females and males see the world differently

CC BY 3.0 / Greg Hume / Heliconius erato taken at Krohn Conservatory butterfly show.Butterfly of heliconidScientists discovered butterflies, females and males see the world differentlyCC BY 3.0 / Greg Hume / Heliconius erato taken at Krohn Conservatory butterfly show.

Butterflies Heliconia have a unique vision system working quite differently in the body of males and females, and the reasons are not yet clear, say genetics in an article published in the journal Molecular Biology & Evolution.

«We are only now beginning to understand that males and females Heliconia can see the world with different eyes. What colors are preferred pollinators, greatly affects the evolution of flowers — insects simply will not visit the blossoms, whose color they don’t like. Therefore, their color can change along with the preferences of insects. Now it turns out that they can influence and sex differences in vision of the butterflies,» said adriana Briscoe (Adriana Briscoe) from the University of California, Irvine (USA).

In recent years, scientists are actively studying how «talk» flowering plants and their pollinators – butterflies, bees and other insects. The study of the principles of their «dialogue», as biologists now believe, will help us understand how did modern plants and to find ways to save the bees and other critical insect from extinction, which they are threatened because of climate change, as well as the proliferation of viruses and parasites Varroa mites.

These studies have already led to several unusual and interesting results. For example, last year scientists discovered that bees can «see» the electric field and use this to assess the quality of the nectar in flowers, but some flowers have learned to deceive insects alluring carnivorous flies smell the dying bees.

Briscoe and her colleagues have discovered another unusual trait of the relationship of insects and plants, studying the genomes of butterflies-Heliconia species Heliconius erato. These insects, as they say scientists, live in the tropics of South America and can be easily seen by a bright red-and-black coloration of their wings, and unusual «spiny» caterpillars. Their they live for an unusually long time, a few months, which makes them particularly valuable pollinators.

These butterflies, from the point of view of genetics, are the holders of unique know-how for the world of animals – in their eyes contains not one, but two types of light-sensitive receptors, through which they see the rays of ultraviolet light. Like the ability, as did the evolutionists, plays an important role in the life of butterflies and their communication with each other as their wings covered with unusual pigment that can only be seen in ultraviolet.

As it turned out, not everything is so simple – trying to figure out how any of these genes, the researchers found that their work is different in the body of females and males. In males, yet not for obvious reasons, gene UV1 responsible for the recognition of «soft» ultraviolet radiation, does not work at all, because of what their vision is radically different from how you see the world of females. In fact, as scholars have noted, this is the first example of how differences between sexes can affect the eyesight of males and females.

Why this is so, scientists do not yet know, but they suggest that the reasons for this lie in the characteristics of sexual behaviour of these butterflies. The absence of a gene UV1, «General» for all Heliconia might help males distinguish females of their own species from kindred butterflies, often masquerading as Heliconius erato, focusing on the ultraviolet glow of the pigment of their wings, «invisible» to the eyes of other butterflies.

Such differences, as scientists believe, may be typical of other butterflies and other pollinators. Them, according to Briscoe and her colleagues, should be considered when implementing various environmental measures for the breeding of pollinators and their recovery in the wild.


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