The idea that the external environment can result in genetic changes may seem like it flies in the face of grade school biology - human hair, for instance, doesn't run from black to brown to red as babies are born in different seasons. But there are organisms who hatch with different characteristics thanks to what's going on outside their eggs. Monarch butterflies, for example, go through generational changes. Every fifth generation or so, a group of marathon fliers is born, able to make journeys that are hundreds of miles long.
Eyespots are a more visual example of this change. "Eyespots are conspicuous, they draw your attention and are thought to be used by many animal species to avoid death or attack, by either startling or confusing the predator," said Oregon State University biologist and study author Katy Prudic, in a statement. "Many insects have eyespots, which suggests they are an important adaptation."
Butterflies aren't the only creatures to sport false eyes - other species of insects, birds and fish do, too. This Oriental flying gurnard swims through the tropics with dark, eye-like patches on his fins: