Estimating the age of Heliconius butterflies from calibrated photographs

Denise Dalbosco Dell'Aglio, Derya Akkaynak, W. Owen McMillan, Chris D. Jiggins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mating behaviour and predation avoidance in Heliconius involve visual colour signals; however, there is considerable inter-individual phenotypic variation in the appearance of colours. In particular, the red pigment varies from bright crimson to faded red. It has been thought that this variation is primarily due to pigment fading with age, although this has not been explicitly tested. Previous studies have shown the importance of red patterns in mate choice and that birds and butterflies might perceive these small colour differences. Using digital photography and calibrated colour images, we investigated whether the hue variation in the forewing dorsal red band of Heliconius melpomene rosina corresponds with age. We found that the red hue and age were highly associated, suggesting that red colour can indeed be used as a proxy for age in the study of wildcaught butterflies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3821
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Dalbosco Dell'Aglio et al.


  • Aging
  • Calibrated images
  • Colour analysis
  • Colouration
  • Digital camera
  • Photography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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