The role of eyespots as anti‐predator mechanisms, principally demonstrated in the Lepidoptera

  title={The role of eyespots as anti‐predator mechanisms, principally demonstrated in the Lepidoptera},
  author={Martin Stevens},
  journal={Biological Reviews},
  • M. Stevens
  • Published 1 November 2005
  • Environmental Science
  • Biological Reviews
Eyespots are found in a variety of animals, in particular lepidopterans. The role of eyespots as antipredator mechanisms has been discussed since the 19th Century, with two main hypotheses invoked to explain their occurrence. The first is that large, centrally located eyespots intimidate predators by resembling the eyes of the predators’ own enemies; the second, though not necessarily conflicting, hypothesis is that small, peripherally located eyespots function as markers to deflect the attacks… 

Field experiments on the effectiveness of ‘eyespots’ as predator deterrents

Number of eyespots and their intimidating effect on naive predators in the peacock butterfly

It is unlikely that conspicuousness as such has selected for eyespots in the peacock butterfly, and it is suggested that it is simply the conspicuousness of eyespot patterns that is intimidating, possibly due to a sensory bias.

Do animal eyespots really mimic eyes

Although eye mimicry is plausible, there remains a lack of evidence to support it and most observations are at least equally consistent with alternative mechanisms, which means the debate can be resolved.

Body size affects the evolution of eyespots in caterpillars

The distribution of eyespots in nature likely results from selection against eye-like markings in small caterpillars and selection foreyespots in large caterpillar species (at least in some microhabitats), and this relationship could arise because large prey are innately conspicuous and face stronger selection to evolve such defenses.

A Review of False Heads in Lycaenid Butterflies

At least five different hypotheses have been proposed to explain why butterflies have evolved false heads in response to predation by visual predators, which are name, summarize, illustrate, and discuss.

Anti-predator adaptations and strategies in the Lepidoptera

This thesis examines visual anti-predator strategies employed by the Lepidoptera and investigates a factor often over looked in the study of crypsis, that of the behavioural adaptations that can enhance its efficiency.

The evolutionary significance of butterfly eyespots

Recent work has shown that eyespots can indeed deflect attacks toward themselves under specific conditions, and data show that dorsal eyespots are used by males and females as signals during courtship, and how the diversity in ventral eyespot patterning has evolved remains a mystery.

Fixed eyespot display in a butterfly thwarts attacking birds

Eyespot display in the peacock butterfly triggers antipredator behaviors in naïve adult fowl

The results show that birds typically fled when peacock butterflies performed their display regardless of whether eyespots were visible or painted over, and suggest that predators perceive large lepidopteran eyespots as belonging to the eyes of a potential predator.

Artificial eyespots on cattle reduce predation by large carnivores

It is shown that eyespots painted on cattle rumps were associated with reduced attacks by ambush carnivores (lions and leopards) and this is the first time eyespots have been shown to deter large mammalian predators.



The Function of Eyespot Patterns in the Lepidoptera

It has been shown that many small passerines possess inborn responses to their predators, and it is probable that these are "parasitised" by the eyespot patterns of insects.

Eye camouflage and false eyespots: chaetodontid responses to predators

  • S. Neudecker
  • Environmental Science
    Environmental Biology of Fishes
  • 2004
SynopsisThe roles of eye camouflage and eyespots are examined within the genusChaetodon as are the various theories explaining the evolutionary significance of the brilliant colors. While eye

Significance of butterfly eyespots as an anti-predator device in ground-based and aerial attacks

This study provides no support that marginal eyespot patterns can act as an effective deflection mechanism to avoid lizard or avian predation.

Does predation maintain eyespot plasticity in Bicyclus anynana?

The results show that natural selection acts against eyespots in the dry season, favouring crypsis, whereas in the wet season it may favour eyespots as deflective patterns.

Pattern formation on lepidopteran wings: determination of an eyespot.


The butterfly Bicyclus anynana has a series of distal eyespots on its wings. Each eyespot is composed of a white pupil, a black disc, and a gold outer ring. We applied artificial selection to the

The Lycaenid "false head" hypothesis: historical review and quantitative analysis [Lepidoptera]

This paper reviews components of wing pattern and behavior which contribute to the appearance of a head, quantify two of these behaviors in the Neotropical "false head" lycaenid, Arawacus aetolus, and suggests that one behavior•landing head downwards•does not enhance the deceptiveness of a " false head".

Eyespot development on butterfly wings: the epidermal response to damage.

It is shown that ectopic eyespots can be induced in nonfocal positions throughout the distal, but not the proximal, wing epidermis of Bicyclus anynana by mild epidermal damage inflicted at 12-18 hr (into a 6- to 7-day pupal period).

Does bird predation influence the spot‐number variation in Maniola jurtina (Lepidoptera)?

For six years samples of the satyrine butterfly Maniolajurtina L. jurtina were collected on small islands in southern Sweden and scored for beak marks and it was suggested that birds act as a selective factor influencing the spot-number variation.