The brilliant red and purple color of this butterfly is typical of many tropical butterflies. These lovely creatures drift through the jungles and savannahs of Central and South America like great flying flowers, adding a fairy-like quality to the tropics not found in the colder north. At dung and mud puddles along the roadways you see these butterflies gathering in dozens and even hundreds, risking up in rainbow clouds when you approach.
But of what use to the butterflies are all these marvelous colors. You would thing they would merely attract to them the enemies that eat them. While much remains to be discovered, the following uses of the colors have been found:
- Some butterflies are poisonous and these wear particular bright colors to warn enemies not to eat them
- Some butterflies have bright colors to make them look like flowers to which they go for nectar. The colors camouflage them.
- Other butterflies copy the colors of poisonous butterflies so that the same enemies will leave them alone.
- Some butterflies have bright colors on their upper wings, but dull colors on the undersides so that when they light and fold their wings they look like bark or leaves and “disappear” and so fool their enemies.
- Other butterflies have bright colors to dazzle their enemies.