The Effect of Tyrosine on Wing Patterns of the Cabbage White Butterfly

Katelyn Glaenzer Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Andrew Stoehr Butler University
Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of organisms to change their appearance to better survive in different environments. An organism that displays phenotypic plasticity is the Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae) which is common across North America. Since the butterflies are present from early spring to mid-fall, they have evolved a seasonally plastic appearance as different wing patterns are beneficial at different temperatures. Both temperature and photoperiod matter in the determination of the black wing patterns. Diet could influence this plasticity as well. As host plants vary across the season, it is likely their diets and the nutrients available also vary. This variation could alter their ability to produce melanin, the black pigment in the wing scales. The production of melanin begins from the amino acid tyrosine, as it is an important precursor for melanin. However, it is not yet known if the amount of tyrosine available in butterflies’ diet contributes to their plastic appearance. In this study, we raised butterflies in the lab at high and low temperatures on two different diets (high and low tyrosine) to determine if the amount of tyrosine in the butterflies’ diet affected the number of black scales they produced. Using measurements from digital photos, we determined the number of black scales per wing. We will report on the effects of both temperature and dietary tyrosine amount on Cabbage White Butterfly wing color patterns.
Oral Presentation

When & Where

09:45 AM
Gallahue Hall 108