Sexual selection and morphological design: The tale of two territorial butterflies

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    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
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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