Female prereproductive coloration reduces mating harassment in damselflies

Md Kawsar Khan*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Conspicuous female coloration can evolve through male mate choice or via female-female competition thereby increasing female mating success. However, when mating is not beneficial, such as in pre-reproductive females, selection should favor cryptic rather than conspicuous coloration to avoid male detection and the associated harassment. Nevertheless, conspicuous female coloration occurs in many prereproductive animals, and its evolution remains an enigma. Here, I studied conspicuous female coloration in Agriocnemis femina damselflies, in which the conspicuous red color of the immature females changes to a less conspicuous green approximately a week after their emergence. I measured body size, weight, and egg numbers of the female morphs and found that red females are smaller and lighter and do not carry developed eggs. Finally, I calculated the occurrence frequency and mating frequency of red and green females in several populations over a three-year period. The results demonstrate that red females mated less frequently than green females even when red females were the abundant morph in the populations. I concluded that conspicuous female coloration is likely to function as a warning signal of sexual unprofitability, thereby reducing sexual harassment for females and unprofitable mating for males.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2293-2303
    Number of pages11
    Issue number10
    Early online date23 Jun 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


    • Color polymorphism
    • ontogenetic color change
    • phenotypic plasticity
    • sexual conflict
    • sexual selection


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