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Dev Growth Differ. 2004 Feb;46(1):1-14.

Species-specific color-pattern modifications of butterfly wings.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Kanagawa University, 2946 Tsuchiya, Hiratsuka, Kanagawa 259-1293, Japan.


We have previously shown that the systemic injection of sodium tungstate, a general protein-tyrosine phosphatase (PTPase) inhibitor, efficiently produces characteristic color-pattern modifications on the wings of the Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui. By using this method in the present study, we analyzed modification patterns of six species of Japanese butterflies. Whereas in Vanessa indica the black spots on the forewings reduced in size in response to the treatment, in Lycaena phlaeas the morphologically similar black spots enlarged in size. However, the metallic blue spots on the forewings of V. indica did enlarge in size, showing different behavior even within a single wing surface. The response patterns of Ypthima argus differed markedly from those of other species in that ectopic color-pattern elements were created. Colias erate showed minor modifications that coincidentally resembled the natural color-pattern of a closely related species, Colias palaeno. Through a comprehensive literature search, we confirmed the existence of naturally occurring aberrant color patterns with close similarities to the experimentally induced phenocopies in each of the modified species. Our results point out the possibility that a hypothetical transduction pathway with a PTPase for the scale-cell differentiation globally coordinates the wing-wide color-pattern development in butterflies.

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