Butterflies use their wings as colorful billboards to communicate to other animals.
Aposematic colors may say, “I am toxic.”.
Cryptic colors may say, “I am not a butterfly, I am a dead leaf.”
A mimic may use color to say, “I am not a Viceroy, I am a Monarch”.
Colors are used by butterflies to identify potential mates. Coloration in butterfly species usually remains consistent over time and location, with some exceptions.
Consistency in coloration leads to consistency in message. Once a color pattern is selected for its ability to promote survival and reproductive fitness, the pattern and the message it communicates becomes fixed in the population. Color patterns in butterflies are controlled by genes that fix the color pattern. If genetic changes occur that cause the color pattern to stray too far from the most adaptive, those individuals do not reproduce and the genes are not passed to the next generation. The next generation will continue to have only the genes that produce a consistent pattern. In this way, color patterns, like many other butterfly traits become fixed.