Butterfly Mate Recognition

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Science  18 Oct 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5593, pp. 497-797
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5593.497a

In butterflies, the elaborate and colorful wing patterns have a number of functions, including warning signals to predators, camouflage, and thermoregulation. In many species they also serve as mate recognition signals. However, in some groups of butterflies the differences in wing pattern between species, or between populations within a species, are slight and subtle, and in such cases a mate recognition function has been thought unlikely. Fordyce et al. studied the ability of two closely related species with very similar wing patterns in the family Lycaenidae (blues and hairstreaks) to recognize their conspecifics. Males were presented with choices of females from different populations, including accurate computer-generated paper models of females to exclude the possibility of other cues such as pheromones. They preferred to initiate courtship with females or models having the conspecific wing pattern, indicating that even slight differences are distinguishable. Manipulation of the computer-generated models has the potential to suggest which elements of the wing pattern are most significant in mate recognition. — AMS

J. Evol. Biol.15, 871 (2002).

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