Male mating bias and its potential reproductive consequence in the butterfly Colias eurytheme

Darrell J. Kemp*, Joseph M. Macedonia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Male mating biases may be a widespread feature of animal mating systems but the phenotypic consequences of these biases are often unclear, especially in species for which the operational sex ratio is strongly male-biased. In Colias butterflies, male choice is thought to be one of the factors responsible for maintaining a female-limited genetic color polymorphism, in which female wings appear either yellowish-orange or white (the "alba" variant). Previous studies have indicated that alba females of two montane Colias species mate fewer times during their lifetime, possibly as a partial consequence of this bias. Here we report the results of a field study of male mating behavior and female mating biology in Colias eurytheme, conducted under conditions of high (summer) and low (spring) population densities. Our data show that despite a substantial male bias in approaching alba vs yellowish-orange phenotypes [ratios of 0.08:1 (spring) and 0.28:1 (summer)], alba females did not contain, on average, fewer or smaller spermatophores. Not one of the 308 sampled females was virgin, but females of both phenotypes accumulated spermatophores with age, and tended to carry fewer, larger spermatophores in spring. These data suggest that significantly fewer (or lighter) spermatophores need not be an obligatory or simple consequence of a strong male bias in butterflies. We discuss these findings in light of the known, thermally and density-dependent complexities of alba reproductive biology and of the Colias mating system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-422
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Alba polymorphism
  • Lepidoptera
  • Mate choice
  • Sexual selection
  • Spermatophore


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