The Adeloptypa annulifera is a neotropical butterfly with a strange and fascinating life cycle. While it has long been known to fraternize with ants—and its wing patterns even look like a cluster of ants—researchers Phil Torres and Aaron Pomerantz recently discovered just how far the insect’s connection to the other species goes.

The two stumbled upon the butterfly species while exploring southeastern Peru and quickly realized it had some pretty strange habits. In the short video “Butterfly Discovery in the Amazon,” Torres and Pomerantz explain that the Adeloptypa annulifera spends its entire life living amongst ants. At the larval stage, ants actually help care for the insects, protecting them from harm. In return, the caterpillars provide valuable nutrients for the ants. But later in life, the relationship between the ants and butterflies becomes less harmonious: Torres and Pomerantz found that, as fully formed butterflies, the Adeloptypa annulifera begin stealing food from the ants and blocking them from food sources, becoming what’s called a “kleptoparasite.”

“This is just a lesson that if you look closely you might find something totally new, and this is just the first step,” says Torres. “There’s much more work to be done here.” The two scientists published a full life cycle study of the Adeloptypa annulifera, and summarize their most exciting discoveries in the video above.

[h/t Digg]

Banner Image Credit: The Jungle Diaries, YouTube