Passiflora pardifolia

Taisha concludes the mimicry and deception series with this image of Passiflora pardifolia courtesy of Cody H. (aka codiferous@Flickr) who submitted it via the BPotD Flickr Pool. Thank you Cody!

Passiflora pardifolia is a Brazilian native species that exhibits a form of protective mimicry coined yellow protruding glands on their leaf surfaces to mimic an infestation of Heliconius butterfly eggs. Passiflora pardifolia is included in this small percentage. Heliconius butterflies will (preferentially?) lay their eggs on the leaves of Passiflora plants, as their larvae are among the few able to withstand the chemical defences of passionflower leaves (and so will not have to compete with other non-Heliconius insect larvae for food). However, caterpillars of Heliconius will feed on other larvae, too–including other Heliconius caterpillars. Thus, the yellow markings on the passionflower leaf surfaces are an effective mechanism for strengthened health and increased survival of Passiflora pardifolia, as Heliconius butterflies will bypass the plants with these markings so as to not expose their offspring to a potential threat. It is suggested that the egg-mimicking features have evolved recently, as they seem to arise sporadically among the different Passiflora lineages, and in too many ways to be correlated with a single botanical function (see: Gilbert, L. (1982). The coevolution of a butterfly and a vine. Scientific American. 247(2):110-121).

The markings on the leaves mentioned above were the inspiration for the epithet of this species: pardifolia is derived from the Greek παρδος or pardos, i.e., a spotted animal like a leopard or panther (see: Vanderplank, J. (2006). Passiflora pardifolia. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. 23(3): 243-247).

Botany / entomology resource: inspired by the mimicry series, BPotD reader Paulette L. sent along a news story about this recently-published study: Pollinator Deception in the Orchid Mantis, in which (from the abstract): “After more than a century of conjecture, we provide the first experimental evidence of pollinator deception in the orchid mantis and the first description of a unique predatory strategy that has not been documented in any other animal species”.

Passiflora pardifolia

8 responses to “Passiflora pardifolia”

  1. Mike kenendy

    Love your emails. Plants are just so fascinating!

  2. Susan Gustavson

    The above mentioned Orchid Mantis is worth checking out. An amazing piece of mimicry.This has been a great series. Thanks!

  3. Meg Bernstein

    Great series on mimicry, thanks so much!

  4. Elizabeth par is

    A really interesting series on mimicry. Thanks

  5. Jane / MulchMaid

    Thanks for this series, Taisha – it’s been fascinating!

  6. Autumnjoy

    I can’t wait ’til Spring.

  7. Jennifer Recoy

    Absolutely beautiful photo Cody!! Thank you for sharing –

  8. Eric Hunt

    This butterfly egg mimicry is found in several different Passiflora species.
    Here is P. tatei in southern Peru, clearly showing the false eggs:
    And a shot with flowers:

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