Convergence in wing coloration between orange underwing moths (Archiearis spp.) and tortoiseshell butterflies (Aglais spp.)

Academic Article


  • We analysed the wing coloration of the orange underwing moth Archiearis parthenias (Geometridae, Archiearinae) in comparison with the small tortoiseshell butterfly Aglais urticae (Nymphalidae). Both species fly in early spring and occur sympatrically in the northern Palaearctic. Aglais, the more common species, has a longer flight period and uses a broader range of habitats. Both species show a camouflaged colour pattern on surfaces exposed at rest but a bright orange signal in flight. Although the evolution of its coloration is constrained by its geometrid morphology, Archiearis is functionally similar to Aglais both while resting and in flight. Archiearis has presumably evolved from nocturnal geometrid ancestors. Its shift to diurnality has included a change in the predator defence system from one based on ultrasonic hearing, functional against bats, to one presumably functional against birds. Preliminary palatability tests showed that Aglais is distasteful to birds (chicken), while Archiearis seems to be palatable. The function of the convergent coloration is unknown, but several possibilities are discussed. ¬© Entomologica Fennica. 22 October 2001.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Rydell J; Fagerstr√∂m J; Andersson S; Stille GG; Gelang M; Lancaster WC; Svensson MGE; Tullberg BS
  • Start Page

  • 65
  • End Page

  • 71
  • Volume

  • 12
  • Issue

  • 2