Investigating the consistency of mate-locating behavior in the territorial butterfly Hypolimnas bolina (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)

Darrell J. Kemp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The study of butterfly behavior has afforded valuable insights into the evolution of alternative mating tactics. Two hypotheses derived from this area of research contend that (1) territoriality is only viable under low to moderate conspecific densities (due to the costs of site defence) and (2) perching may be employed only when thermal conditions constrain flight activity. These hypotheses were evaluated by investigating mate locating behavior in Hypolimnas bolina, a territorial species that is naturally subject to variation in population density and weather conditions. Male behavior was charted throughout the day during a period of high population density at an encounter site in tropical Australia. Perching was the primary tactic, although a small proportion of individuals patrolled nonaggressively in the afternoon. Population-level male behavior failed to support predictions drawn from either the "territory economics" or "thermal constraint" hypotheses. First, the proportion of perching males and the number of aggressive conspecific interactions (per male) increased with increasing male density at the site. Second, few males patrolled at the hottest, brightest time of day (approximately midday), and the diel distribution of perchers did not emulate the "U-shaped" distribution shown by the occurrence of dorsal basking behavior. These results show that perching in this species is not a suboptimal tactic employed when temperatures constrain flight activity but may represent the best method of locating receptive females. At this stage the reproductive significance of the observed patrolling behavior remains obscure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-147
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Alternative mating tactics
  • Behavioral plasticity
  • Intrasexual competition
  • Perching
  • Reproductive behavior
  • Sexual selection


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