Modelling butterfly wing eyespot patterns

Rui Dilão, Joaquim Sainhas

Abstract

Eyespots are concentric motifs with contrasting colours on butterfly wings. Eyespots have intra– and interspecific visual signalling functions with adaptive and selective roles. We propose a reaction–diffusion model that accounts for eyespot development. The model considers two diffusive morphogens and three non–diffusive pigment precursors. The first morphogen is produced in the focus and determines the differentiation of the first eyespot ring. A second morphogen is then produced, modifying the chromatic properties of the wing background pigment precursor, inducing the differentiation of a second ring. The model simulates the general structural organization of eyespots, their phenotypic plasticity and seasonal variability, and predicts effects from microsurgical manipulations on pupal wings as reported in the literature.