Viceroys Taste Sour In The Absence of Royalty

Monarch (left) and Viceroy (right) butterflies (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Viceroy butterflies (right) mimic monarchs (left) and queen butterflies (below) because monarchs and queens taste terrible.

According to the Batesian mimicry theory, viceroys resemble inedible butterflies to protect themselves from being eaten.

Queen butterfly (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But what happens when there are no monarchs or queen butterflies around and the local predators learn that viceroys are safe to eat? The viceroys change their tactics.

A study 15 year study in northern Florida — where queen butterflies don’t live — found that in the absence of queens the viceroys retain a chemical in their bodies that makes them taste sour. Thus they aren’t eaten. In fact they thrive.

Viceroys are different in the absence of royalty.

Read more at “A tasty Florida butterfly turns sour” in Science Daily.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons, click on the captions to see the original)