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The extremely long-tongued Neotropical butterfly Eurybia lycisca (Riodinidae): Proboscis morphology and flower handling

 

Bauder J.A.S., Lieskonig N.R. & H.W. Krenn 2010. The extremely long-tongued Neotropical butterfly Eurybia lycisca (Riodinidae): Proboscis morphology and flower handling. Arthropod Structure & Development 40 (2011) 122e127.

Abstract

Few species of true butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea) have evolved a proboscis that greatly exceeds the length of the body. This study is the first to examine the morphology of an extremely long butterfly proboscis and to describe how it is used to obtain nectar from flowers with very deep corolla tubes. The proboscis of Eurybia lycisca (Riodinidae) is approximately twice as long as the body. It has a maximal length of 45.6 mm (mean length 36.5 mm +-4.1 S.D., N ¼ 20) and is extremely thin, measuring only about 0.26 mm at its maximum diameter. The proboscis has a unique arrangement of short sensilla at the tip, and its musculature arrangement is derived. The flower handling times on the preferred nectar plant, Calathea crotalifera (Marantaceae), were exceptionally long (mean 54.5 sec +- 28.5 S.D., N ¼ 26). When feeding on the deep flowers remarkably few proboscis movements occur. The relationship between Eurybia lycisca and its preferred nectar plant and larval host plant, Calathea crotalifera, is not mutualistic since the butterfly exploits the flowers without contributing to their pollination.We hypothesize that the extraordinarily long proboscis of Eurybia lycisca is an adaptation for capitalizing on the pre-existing mutualistic interaction of the host plant with its pollinating long-tongued nectar feeding insects.

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