Heliconius cydno is a polytypic species ranging from southern Mexico to western Ecuador, with a number of closely-related entities (including H. pachinus, H. heurippa, H. timareta and H. tristero) that have been described as separate species but may be differentiated geographical races or the results of introgressive hybridization. Patterns of gene flow between races of H. cydno and races of its close relative H. melpomene are the subject of much current research (e. g., Mavarez et al. 2006).
Heliconius cydno is involved in Müllerian mimicry with Heliconius sapho over most of its range, and also with Heliconius eleuchia in western Colombia and Ecuador. In the upper Cauca valley of Colombia, there are no corresponding races of either of the latter species, and H. cydno weymeri is comimetic with H. erato chestertonii, whose usual mimic H. melpomene is also not present there.
Like many species of Heliconius, H. cydno exhibits discrete geographical variation in its wing coloration, with relatively narrow zones of hybridization between adjacent geographical races. The following subspecific names are recognized by Lamas (2004):
- Heliconius cydno galanthus H. W. Bates 1864. southern Mexico to Costa Rica (Atlantic slope).
- Heliconius cydno chioneus H. W. Bates 1864. Eastern Costa Rica to northwestern Colombia.
- Heliconius cydno cydno Doubleday 1847. Magdalena Valley, Colombia.
- Heliconius cydno zelinde Butler 1869. Chocó, western Colombia.
- Heliconius cydno weymeri Staudinger 1897. Upper Cauca Valley, Colombia.
- Heliconius cydno hermogenes Hewitson . Central Magdalena Valley, Colombia.
- Heliconius cydno lisethae Neukirchen 1995. Upper Magdalena Valley, Colombia.
- Heliconius cydno wanningeri Neukirchen 1991. Santander, Colombia.
- Heliconius cydno cordula Neustetter 1913. Eastern Cordillera Oriental, Colombia.
- Heliconisu cydno cydnides Staudinger 1885. Sierra de Perija, Colombia.
- Heliconius cydno barinasensis Masters 1973. Cordillera Merida, Venezuela.
- Heliconius cydno gadouae K. S. Brown & F. Fernández 1985. Sierra de Perija, Venezuela.
- Heliconius cydno alithea Hewitson 1869. Pacific slope, Ecuador.
The following taxa are closely-elated to H. cydno and may represent geographical races/subspecies rather than distinct species (see Brower 1996):
- Heliconius pachinus Salvin 1871. Costa Rica (Pacific slope).
- Heliconius heurippa Hewitson . Meta, Colombia.
- Heliconius tristero Brower 1996. Putumayo, Colombia.
- Heliconius timareta timareta Hewitson 1867. Eastern Ecuador.
- Heliconius timareta timoratus Lamas 1998. Northeastern Peru.
H. cydno occurs from sea level to 2,000 m in steep forests and gaps. Usually individuals fly rapidly and in the middlestory. Both sexes prefer red and orange flowers and collect large pollen loads from Psiguria plants. Females mate multiply and adults roost solitary at night at 2-10 m above ground on twigs or tendrils.
Hostplant: H. cydno is polyphagous and larvae feed primarily on plants from the subgenera Granadilla and Distephana (Passifloraceae). The secondary natural food plant is from the subgenus Astrophea and in laboratory or insectary experiments, larvae accept Tacsonia. In Costa Rica caterpillars of H. c. galanthus and H. c. chioneus feed on Passiflora vitifolia, P. biflora and most other Passiflora spp. (Passifloraceae) (DeVries, 1997).
Early stages: Eggs are yellow and approximately 1.1 x 0.9 mm (h x w). Females usually place eggs singly on growing shoots and tendrils of the host plant. Early instar larvae have a white body and black spines. Mature larvae have a pinkish brown body with black spots, black scoli and the head is orange with two black horns; length is around 1.2 cm. Caterpillars are gregarious in small numbers. Pupae are dark brown with two rectangular gold patches on the thorax and have antennae with long spines, and long spines on the abdomen (Brown, 1981; DeVries, 1997).
Adult: Heliconius cydno butterflies are black with a variety of yellow or white bands or spots on forewings and/or hindwings. In general, regardless of the variation in the distribution and color of other wing pattern elements, adult specimens of H. cydno exhibit brown transverse bars on the ventral surface of the hindwings (as visible in the title photograph), a characteristic that easily distinguishes them from their mimics. Some hybrid specimens lack these bars, however. Forewing length: 38-43 mm.
Heliconius cydno is distributed in Central America south to Venezuela, and Ecuador.
Evolution and Systematics
Heliconius species are known for abundant examples of wing pattern divergences and mimicry among species. The genus Heliconius is a recently diverged radiation and includes species in a variety of phases of speciation, and hybridization commonly occurs between taxa. Heliconius cydno has a strikingly distinct wing pattern from is closest sister species H. pachinus. Researchers at the University of Chicago (Konforst et al. 2013) found by comparing full genomes that these species, which are inter-fertile and sympatric, hybridize to the point that gene flow makes them almost entirely genetically identical. This homogenization of the genomes allows for easy identification of just 12 small regions where there is significant genetic diversity, two thirds of which are known to be involved in the determination of wing pattern elements. These distinct alleles are selected for in the geographic region in which they originally appear because of their advantages for mating and avoiding predation, and the researchers of this study use it as an example indicating that mimicry may have a rich role in genetic evolution.
Over evolutionary time the behavioral and species barrier determined by these few genetic differences lead to broader build up of genome-wide divergence between the species, and again the Heliconius system allowed this research group a clear look at how genetic divergence evolves subsequent to initial speciation by comparing cydno and pachinus with a increasingly more divergent races of a third, slightly more distant species, H. melpomene. An exponential increase in genetic difference over time indicates that divergence after the speciation event may be a result of divergent and purifying selection. The Heliconius model further allows analysis of the targets of and processes contributing to divergent selection, and is a starting place for examining how general these phenomena may be in speciation in other systems (Kronforst et al. 2013)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Heliconius cydno
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
Heliconius cydno is a nymphalid butterfly commonly known as the Cydno Longwing that ranges from Mexico to northern South America. It is typically found in forest understorey and deposits its eggs on Passiflora plants.
- H. c. alithea Hewitson, 1869
- H. c. barinasensis Masters, 1973
- H. c. chioneus Bates, 1864
- H. c. cordula Neustetter, 1913
- H. c. cydnides Staudinger, 1885
- H. c. cydno Doubleday, 1847
- H. c. hermogenes Hewitson, 1858
- H. c. gadouae Brown & Fernández, 1985
- H. c. galanthus Bates, 1864
- H. c. lisethae Neukirchen, 1995
- H. c. pachinus Salvin, 1871
- H. c. wanningeri Neukirchen, 1991
- H. c. weymeri Staudinger, 
- H. c. zelinde Butler, 1869
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