Focusing on butterfly eyespot focus: uncoupling of white spots from eyespot bodies in nymphalid butterflies

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Background: Developmental studies on butterfly wing color patterns often focus on eyespots. A typical eyespot (such as that of Bicyclus anynana) has a few concentric rings of dark and light colors and a white spot (called a focus) at the center. The prospective eyespot center during the early pupal stage is known to act as an organizing center. It has often been assumed, according to gradient models for positional information, that a white spot in adult wings corresponds to an organizing center and that the size of the white spot indicates how active that organizing center was. However, there is no supporting evidence for these assumptions. To evaluate the feasibility of these assumptions in nymphalid butterflies, we studied the unique color patterns of Calisto tasajera (Nymphalidae, Satyrinae), which have not been analyzed before in the literature. Results: In the anterior forewing, one white spot was located at the center of an eyespot, but another white spot associated with either no or only a small eyespot was present in the adjacent compartment. The anterior hindwing contained two adjacent white spots not associated with eyespots, one of which showed a sparse pattern. The posterior hindwing contained two adjacent pear-shaped eyespots, and the white spots were located at the proximal side or even outside the eyespot bodies. The successive white spots within a single compartment along the midline in the posterior hindwing showed a possible trajectory of a positional determination process for the white spots. Several cases of focus-less eyespots in other nymphalid butterflies were also presented. Conclusions: These results argue for the uncoupling of white spots from eyespot bodies, suggesting that an eyespot organizing center does not necessarily differentiate into a white spot and that a prospective white spot does not necessarily signify organizing activity for an eyespot. Incorporation of these results in future models for butterfly wing color pattern formation is encouraged.




Iwata, M., & Otaki, J. M. (2016). Focusing on butterfly eyespot focus: uncoupling of white spots from eyespot bodies in nymphalid butterflies. SpringerPlus, 5(1).

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