Sexual selection and morphological design

The tale of two territorial butterflies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Sexual competition promotes sexual selection and may influence the evolution of morphology, physiology and life history. In many flying insects, selection for efficient mate location is thought to have influenced male flight morphology in characteristic ways, with exponents of sit-and-wait tactics selected to possess high acceleration designs (i.e. high flight musculature and relatively small, elongate wings). However, many of these species also engage in elaborate and extended aerial disputes over territory ownership, and the need for contest ability may also select for a particular design. I attempted to tease apart the effects of these two influences by contrasting the flight morphology of two closely related Hypolimnas butterflies: H. bolina and H. alimena. While the males of both species rely predominantly on sit-and-wait tactics, only male H. bolina compete for territories via extended aerial manoeuvres. Males of this species possessed lower body mass per unit wing area (i.e. lower wing loading) and more elongate wings (i.e. higher aspect ratio), but did not differ from male H. alimena in relative flight musculature (thoracic mass). Males of both species varied from conspecific females in having higher relative flight musculature, lower wing loading and lower aspect ratio, which only partly supports expectations based solely upon sexual selection. These data suggest that selection for aerial contest ability may act weakly upon wing parameters, favouring a compromise between power/maneuverability and energetically efficient flight.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-294
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Journal of Zoology
Volume58
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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