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Biol J Linn Soc Lond. 2013 Oct 1;110(2):291-304.

Functional morphology of the feeding apparatus and evolution of proboscis length in metalmark butterflies (Lepidoptera: Riodinidae).

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Integrative Zoology, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, Vienna, 1090, Austria.
Theoretical Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, Vienna, 1090, Austria ; Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, Adolf Lorenz Gasse 2, Altenberg, 3422, Austria.
Theoretical Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, Vienna, 1090, Austria.


An assessment of the anatomical costs of extremely long proboscid mouthparts can contribute to the understanding of the evolution of form and function in the context of insect feeding behaviour. An integrative analysis of expenses relating to an exceptionally long proboscis in butterflies includes all organs involved in fluid feeding, such as the proboscis plus its musculature, sensilla, and food canal, as well as organs for proboscis movements and the suction pump for fluid uptake. In the present study, we report a morphometric comparison of derived long-tongued (proboscis approximately twice as long as the body) and short-tongued Riodinidae (proboscis half as long as the body), which reveals the non-linear scaling relationships of an extremely long proboscis. We found no elongation of the tip region, low numbers of proboscis sensilla, short sensilla styloconica, and no increase of galeal musculature in relation to galeal volume, but a larger food canal, as well as larger head musculature in relation to the head capsule. The results indicate the relatively low extra expense on the proboscis musculature and sensilla equipment but significant anatomical costs, such as reinforced haemolymph and suction pump musculature, as well as thick cuticular proboscis walls, which are functionally related to feeding performance in species possessing an extremely long proboscis.


flower-visitor; haemolymph pump; insect; mouthparts; sensilla; suction pump

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