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Butterflies Pass Down Wisdom To Offspring

Sep 23, 2015 01:24 PM EDT
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One major role of a parent is to pass down knowledge and advice to offspring. That seems to be true of female parent butterflies, say researchers from the University of Baseldo, who add that the winged wonders actaully teach their larvae the best plants to forage. Wise moms even tend to deposit their eggs on the same plants they once called home.

In observing of small cabbage white (Pieris rapae) butterfly females, researchers found that moms became more precise in where they laid their eggs as the species adapted to changing environment conditions. They also seemed to follow in their own mother's footsteps and laid their eggs on the very same plants that they and their parents called home as larvae, according to a news release.

To better understand this adaptation process, scientists fertilized cabbage plants using nitrogen, a butterflies prefered choice for larvae development, but found that mother butterflies actually remained true to their roots – literally – when laying their eggs.

Researchers noted that this kind of evolutionary conditioning is possible only where parents and offspring grow up in similar environments. And when these behaviors are passed down they become further engrained in the species, allowing successive generations to easily adapt to their environment. 

Results of the University of Baseldo study were recently published in the journal Ecology

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