Does the diversity of colors in butterflies represent an honest sign of their toxicity?

Project: Research Project

Project Details


Coloration seems to play a double role in organisms.

On the one hand, it affects sexual selection between species and on the other it serves as a visual signal to avoid predation.

Many of the studies on coloration have been primarily focused on its role in sexual selection processes and/or on coloration as a primary warning signal to predators.

However, less attention has been paid to the relationship that coloration has with secondary defenses such as toxicity.

In this regard, there are theoretical studies that predict that species with a high degree of toxicity would not invest in strong color signals, since conspicuity entails an unnecessary additional cost by being well protected.

However, experimental studies have found more positive than negative correlations between conspicuity and toxicity. Particularly in butterflies, this relationship has been little studied, only in the species Danaus plexippus has it been investigated, where it was found that warning signs can be honest indicators of toxicity.

Like other aposematic butterfly species, Heliconius butterflies signal their chemical defenses to predators with conspicuous warning colors.

In Heliconius, the coloration and toxicity of some species have been studied separately, however, it is unknown if coloration is an honest quantitative signal of toxicity in these butterflies, that is, if more toxic species are also more visible to predators such as butterflies. birds.

In this research work, it will be studied if the aposematic/mimetic coloration of Heliconius is an honest quantitative signal about its level of toxicity.

If this is not the case, the results will be discussed in light of the different theoretical models that have been proposed.


Butterflies, toxicity, coloration, aposematism, mimicry.

Commitments / Obligations

-Undergraduate thesis

-Oral or poster presentation in
scientific congresses 1
Technical reports and/or
investigation 1

-Editorial publication no
specialized. For example Newsletter
of Colombian society
(COLEVOL) and Nova et Vetera 1

-Scientific article 1
Effective start/end date12/1/2212/1/23

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Main Funding Source

  • Competitive Funds
  • Small Amount


  • Bogotá D.C.


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