Best Visual Effects In An African Ecosystem

The Nominees: 


1. The Viceroy Butterfly: Mimicry

Nature astounds us with its explosion of colour, patterns and incredible beauty, but why? There is always a reason why a particular animal might have a particular colour or pattern. Take the African Viceroy Butterfly with its vivid orange and black pattern. This particular colouration is a result of something called batesian mimicry. Essentially they are copy cats. The Viceroy butterfly has evolved to to look exactly like the African Monarch Butterfly in an attempt to prevent itself being eaten. The African Monarch is toxic and unpalatable to birds as a result of eating the poisonous milkweed plant as a caterpillar. They use the cardiac glycosides to in turn make themselves poisonous to predators so that birds tend to avoid eating them. Through impressive work from its makeup artist, the Viceroy tricks birds into thinking they are Monarch Butterflies when in fact they are utterly harmless and probably quite delicious. Spot the difference:


2. The Nightjar: Camouflage

 For ground nesting birds, camouflage is key. To avoid predation, many birds are adapted to blend in to their surrounding environment. The nightjar is a great example of this incredible ability. It chooses its nesting sight based on its mottled plumage showing self awareness of its surrounding environment. Camouflage is a spectacular phenomenon seen across the world used in predators and prey. Have a look at the pictures below to see if you can spot these extraordinary creatures.


3. The Zebra's Stripes: Who Knows?

 Why Zebra's have stripes seems to be a mystery that no one can crack. At first glance it seems they stick out like a sore thumb amongst their khaki coloured companions. Theorists hypothesise it might be a defence mechanism to predation. As the herd flee's from a lion, their intermingled stripes helps to dazzle the predator so that they can't pick out a single target. In addition, studies have shown that black and white stripes also help in attracting fewer tsetse fly's. Lastly, some papers suggest stripes are used in thermoregulation. More stripes help the Zebra to cool off because air moves faster over black stripes than the white ones, creating convection currents around the body. To back this up, they show that Zebras tend to have more stripes in hotter areas.


And the winner for Best Visual Effects in an African ecosystem is...