Time for Everything
12/4/12 at 10:32 PM 7 Comments

Science: The Butterfly and the Ant

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Tonight I discovered an amazing collection of nature photos shared on Flickr. The following picture of a butterfly grabbed my attention:

Photo: Flickr/Gary Yankech

On Flickr this butterfly is identified as an American Copper. Here is Wikipedia's description of this butterfly's life cycle:

The eggs are laid singly and conspicuously on the upperside of foodplant leaves and the young caterpillar feeds on the underside of the leaf creating "windows" by leaving the upper epidermis of the leaf untouched. Pupation takes place in the leaf litter and the pupa is thought to be tended by ants. There are between two and three broods a year, fewer further north. In exceptionally good years, a fourth brood sometimes occurs in the south and adults can still be seen flying into November. The species overwinters as a caterpillar.

You may have noticed that I highlighted one sentence above by making it bold text. I did not know that a butterfly's existence could be dependent on ants. To learn more about this interesting subject, I looked for related articles and found this Associated Press article: Ants tricked into raising butterflies.

According to the article, "The pupae of the European butterfly Maculina rebeli exude a scent that mimics the ants and make themselves at home inside the ant nest."

Some scientists will ascribe this development to darwinism but I prefer the approach of intelligent design.

The article concludes:

In nature, the real ant queen and the caterpillar keep to different parts of the ant colony and would not encounter one another, the report said.

But in an experiment, a butterfly pupa pretending to be an ant queen was placed in a chamber with worker ants and four real ant queens. The ant queens began to attack and bite the caterpillar, but the workers intervened, biting and stinging their own queens, which they then pulled to a far corner of the chamber while other workers attended the pupa.

I think this relationship between different species is more likely to be the result of design than unguided processes.

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