A novel method of behavioural thermoregulation in butterflies

D. J. Kemp*, A. K. Krockenberger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


The requirement for efficient thermoregulation has directed the coevolution of specialized morphological and behavioural traits in ectotherms. Adult butterflies exhibit three thermoregulatory mechanisms, termed dorsal, lateral and reflectance basking. In this study, we investigate a potential fourth mechanism whereby individuals perch with their wings fully spread and angled downwards such that the margins are appressed to the substrate. We find that mate-locating male Hypolimnas bolina (L.) (Nymphalidae) adopt this posture when operational thoracic temperatures are lowest (less than approximately 34°C). As thoracic temperature increases, males perch with wings increasingly closed and ultimately select shaded microhabitats. Using thermocouple-implanted dead models, we show that appressed posture individuals warm faster than those adopting the conventional dorsal-basking (horizontal wing) posture. This thermal advantage is not mitigated by shading of the outer 60-70% of the wing area, which suggests that - as with the conventional dorsal posture - only the basal wing surfaces contribute to heat gain via the absorption of solar irradiation. These investigations suggest that appression represents a novel extension of conventional dorsal basking behaviour in butterflies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)922-929
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Basking
  • Colouration
  • Hypolimnas
  • Lepidoptera
  • Nymphalidae
  • Phenotype
  • Temperature
  • Territoriality
  • Thermal ecology


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