Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Discussion of a Paper on the Protective Adaptations
of Caterpillars (S143b: 1869)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Third party rendering of words Wallace offered in discussion of a paper on the protective adaptations of caterpillars by J. Jenner Weir, read at the Entomological Society of London meeting of 1 March 1869. Wallace's remarks (along with others') were introduced on the same page as follows: "Mr. Weir's experiments were suggested by the remarks of Mr. Alfred R. Wallace, reported in Proc. Ent. Soc. 1867, p. lxxx.: the conclusions at which he arrived were, that, as a rule, hairy and spinous larvæ were rejected by birds (unless the cuckoo were an exception); but he doubted whether the mechanical difficulty of swallowing them was the cause of their rejection, and rather thought that the hairs were the concomitant of a disagreeable quality of which they acted as an indicator; that bright and gaily-coloured larvæ were, as a rule, refused; but that smooth larvæ of a greenish or dull brown colour, such as are for the most part nocturnal in their habits, and those which simulate the leaves or twigs of trees upon which they live, were eaten with avidity." The transcription below is taken from a reprinting that appeared on page 1648 of the Zoologist issue of April 1869. To link directly to this page, connect with:

     [[p. 1648]] Mr. Alfred R. Wallace was pleased to find that the observations of Mr. Weir went so far to support the theory which, reasoning entirely from the analogy of what had been observed in the Heliconiidæ, he had ventured to suggest in answer to a question of Mr. Darwin's. He thought there was now a solid foundation of fact for the hypothesis that the bright colour of larvæ was protective, and was (as it were) a flag hung out to warn off their enemies. Doubtless every detail either of form or colour had its object and bearing upon the history of the creature. It was not necessary that the law should be absolute or the rule universal; he did not expect to find, on the contrary he should have been surprised if it had been found, that all brightly coloured larvæ were peculiarly protected, or that the bright colour of any particular larva protected it from all enemies; if it thereby obtained protection from a single enemy, if it was left exposed to the attack of but one enemy less than its neighbours, to that extent at least the colour gave it an advantage; the theory of protective warning supplied the reason for, and afforded a rational explanation of, the gay colouring, which in the case of larvæ could not be accounted for by sexual selection.

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