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Am Nat. 1998 Dec;152(6):853-60. doi: 10.1086/286213.

The regulation of phenotypic plasticity of eyespots in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana.

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Institute of Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences, University of Leiden, P.O. Box 9516, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.


We use an outcrossed stock and selected lines of Bicyclus anynana in combination with measurements and manipulations of ecdysteroid hormones in early pupae to examine the regulation of eyespot size in adult butterflies. The eyespots on the ventral wing surfaces express adaptive phenotypic plasticity in response to the dry-wet seasonal environments of the butterflies. Larvae reared at low or high temperatures produce adults with small or large ventral eyespots, respectively. Our experiments examine the role of ecdysteroids in mediating this phenotypic plasticity. Higher titers of ecdysteroids shortly after pupation yield larger ventral wing eyespots. There is an uncoupling of the ventral eyespots and those on the dorsal forewing. The latter do not show phenotypic plasticity. They show very little response to rearing temperature, and variation in their size is not associated with differences in the dynamics of ecdysteroids in early pupae. A testable hypothesis in terms of the distribution of hormone receptors in the developmental "organizers" or foci of the eyespots is proposed to account for how some eyespots express plasticity while others do not.

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