Developmental Plasticity in Sexual Roles of Butterfly Species Drives Mutual Sexual Ornamentation

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Science  07 Jan 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6013, pp. 73-75
DOI: 10.1126/science.1197114

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Current explanations for why sexual ornaments are found in both sexes include genetic correlation, same sex competition, and mutual mate choice. In this study, we report developmental plasticity in mating behavior as induced by temperature during development in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana. Males and females reciprocally change their sexual roles depending on their larval rearing temperatures. This switch is correlated with a change in mating benefits to females and costs to males. The discrete seasonal environments, wet season and dry season, are known to produce the two developmental forms and as a consequence impose alternating, symmetrical patterns of sexual selection, one season on male ornaments, the following season on female ornaments. Thus, reciprocal selection through time may result in mutual sexual ornamentation.

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