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J Embryol Exp Morphol. 1985 Apr;86:191-203.

Cautery-induced colour patterns in Precis coenia (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae).


Cautery of the dorsal hindwing in the butterfly, Precis coenia, induces the formation of a concentric colour pattern around the site of injury. The induced pattern is identical in pigmentation to the eyespots that normally develop on this wing surface. This response to cautery also occurs, though much less dramatically, on the ventral forewing. In addition to the peculiar response to cautery, the dorsal hindwing of Precis also develops a series of unique pattern aberrations in response to coldshock. These consist of irregular elongation of the anterior eyespot along the proximodistal axis of the wing. In the most dramatic aberrations the eyespot field covers the entire anterior half of the wing surface. An analysis is presented that attempts to reconcile the effects of cautery on the Precis hindwing with the very different morphological effects of cautery on the colour pattern of Ephestia kühniella, described by Kühn & Von Engelhardt. Computer simulations reveal that the finding presented in this paper, as well as the classical work on Ephestia, can both be explained by assuming that the site of cautery becomes a sink for one of the morphogens involved in colour pattern determination. The experimental findings furthermore indicate that minor perturbations of the wing epidermis can evoke the physiological conditions that attend normal eyespot determination. It is shown that this interpretation also helps to explain the unusual pattern modifications following coldshock.

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