What is the reason for eyespots in butterflies?I want to know the genetic origins of this.

Expert Answers
besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Researchers believe that the reason for eyespots on butterflies is to make them look as if they are a larger creature, therefore scaring away anything that may potentially eat them. For example, a bird may see the eyespots on the butterfly (or moth) and think that it is a cat instead.

Other researchers argue with this assumption. They say that the reason for the eyespots is to let predators know that they are toxic (even if they are not) and cannot be eaten.

I have posted a link that below that studies in detail the tropical butterfly, Bicyclus anynana:

Butterfly wing patterns in general, and butterfly eyespots in particular, have proven very useful objects in the study of the genetic and developmental bases of phenotypic evolution.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When I was younger, we were taught that the eyespots on the butterflies were meant to scare away predators.  We were taught that they looked like the eyes of things that ate the predators.  So the predators would see the butterfly and think that it was something that could eat them.

But now scientists think that the eyespots are scary to predators just because they are conspicuous.  Conspicuous markings often mean an organism is toxic.

One way or another, thought, the idea is that the eyespots are adaptive because they help butterflies avoid getting eaten.  Therefore, butterflies with eyespots reproduce more.

Please follow the link for more information.