Heliconious PWND!!!!!!!!1

During my time here in Costa Rica I have slowly come to love the butterflies from the genus Heliconius. Quite a beautiful genus with distinct elongate wings that are black and marked with a splash of orange, pink or blue. Their colour pattern is a signal to bird predators that they are unpalatable. In some species this is an honest signal indicating that the butterfly is truly unpalatable, but other species are mimics. Henry Walter Bates was very interested in Heliconidae butterflies. In his book The Naturalist on the River Amazons he discusses Heliconius butterflies at some length (click here to have a read). Also, Bates' classic manuscript was focused on Heliconidae: Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon Valley : Lepidoptera : Heliconidae.

Today while searching for caterpillars I found a spider nomming a Heliconius genus butterfly. The spider was surprisingly small to have taken down such a large prey item. Not sure yet on the species involved and suggestions are welcome! Here are some photos of the action:

Heliconius sp. (Nymphalidae) caught by a spider

I'm not yet sure whether this Heliconius is an aposematic or mimetic species. I suspect that the chemical defence (and colourful warning signals) of Heliconius are directed towards birds, so for this spider it probably doesn't matter either way. It seems many insect species that are unpalatable to birds are fully palatable to invertebrate predators.


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