Female mate choice determines reproductive isolation between sympatric butterflies

Magne Friberg*, Namphung Vongvanich, Anna Karin Borg-Karlson, Darrell J. Kemp, Sami Merilaita, Christer Wiklund

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Animal courtship rituals are important for species recognition, and a variety of cues might be utilized to recognize conspecific mates. In this paper, we investigate different species-recognition mechanisms between two sympatric butterfly sister species: the wood white (Leptidea sinapis) and Real's wood white (Leptidea reali). We show that males of both species frequently court heterospecific females both under laboratory and field conditions. The long-lasting elaborate courtships impose energetic costs, since the second courtship of males that were introduced to two subsequent conspecific females lasted on average only one fourth as long as the first courtship. In this paper, we demonstrate that premating reproductive isolation is dependent on female unwillingness to accept heterospecific mates. We studied female and male courtship behavior, chemical signaling, and the morphology of the sexually dimorphic antennae, one of the few male traits visible for females during courtship. We found no differences in ultraviolet (UV) reflectance and only small differences in longer wavelengths and brightness, significant between-species differences, but strongly overlapping distributions of male L. sinapis and L. reali antennal morphology and chemical signals and minor differences in courtship behavior. The lack of clear-cut between-species differences further explains the lack of male species recognition, and the overall similarity might have caused the long-lasting elaborate courtships, if females need prolonged male courtships to distinguish between con- and heterospecific suitors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-886
Number of pages14
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Courtship behavior
  • Lepidoptera: Pieridae
  • Pheromones
  • Sexual signaling
  • Species recognition
  • Wing reflectance


Dive into the research topics of 'Female mate choice determines reproductive isolation between sympatric butterflies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this