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The phenomenon raises the question whether this phenotype indicates indeed a special mimicry ring, or it is a general "advertisement" for the members of the ecosystem in the neotropics, that the individual which possesses such a pattern is a female.
Ithomiinae species are of special interest as entomological and ecological models because they belong to at least eight distinct mimicry rings (Joron and Mallet 1998) and because they establish particular relationships with host plants, most of which produce alkaloids that are detoxified during the caterpillar life cycle and later used as defenses against natural enemies (Drummond and Brown 1987).
Can the changes of species composition generated by chance extinctions, colonizations, and population size fluctuations in partially isolated habitat patches (termed "biotic drift" in Chapter 16) account for parallel Mullerian mimicry rings and species' "ring-switching" in heliconiine butterflies?