Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

When it's cool, female butterflies chase males in sex role reversal

Date:
January 9, 2011
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
If you want to be surrounded by females on the prowl, it pays to be cool, at least if you are a male butterfly. In an unusual example of sex role reversals, females actively court males after being exposed to cool, dry temperatures as caterpillars, researchers report. Raised in the moist and warmer season as larvae, males take up the traditional roles of suitor, displaying their wing designs to females who do the choosing.

When temperatures are cooler, female Bicyclus anynana actively court males, which take on the same role when temperatures are warmer.
Credit: William H. Piel and Antonia Monteiro/Courtesy of Yale University

If you want to be surrounded by females on the prowl, it pays to be cool, at least if you are a male butterfly.

In an unusual example of sex role reversals, females actively court males after being exposed to cool, dry temperatures as caterpillars, Yale University researchers report in the Jan. 7 issue of the journal Science. Raised in the moist and warmer season as larvae, males take up the traditional roles of suitor, displaying their wing designs to females who do the choosing.

"Behavior in these butterflies is changed by the temperatures experienced during development," said Kathleen L. Prudic, post-doctoral researcher in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology and co-author of the paper.

Those females raised in the cooler season and actively courting males will live longer lives once they mate relative to their mated counterparts in the hotter season who are engaged in more passive mate shopping.

The research began when Prudic and Antonia Monteiro, professor in ecology and evolutionary biology, asked why female squinting bush brown butterflies or Bicyclus anynana had beautiful ornamental patterns shaped like eyes on their wings just as males did. In most species, males end up with often elaborate and colorful ornamentation to attract mates while females, who do the selecting, tend toward duller displays. The researchers theorized that perhaps courtship behavior might change given different environmental conditions. They tested the behavior of butterflies raised in larval stage at 27 degrees C and at 17 degrees C.

As expected, female Bicyclus anynana in warmer moister conditions that mimic the wet season in the native African range were more likely to mate with males with ornamented wings. However, the roles were reversed in cooler drier climates. Females played the role of suitors and flashed their eye spots to choosy males. When scientists studied the wing spots, which reflect light in the UV range, invisible to humans, they found they were brighter in the courting females relative to the males of that same season, or relative to females raised in the hotter season.

Prudic said that male butterflies also deliver nutrients as well as sperm during mating and that in less than optimal times for reproduction (the dry cool season) these male offerings appear to lead to increased female longevity. Females want to survive through the dry season and furiously display to as many males as possible in order to obtain these resources from males. Males, on the other hand, become very careful about choosing who they give these resources to because once they do, they live shorter lives. Only the ladies carrying bright eyespots have a good chance of attracting a mate.

Hui Cao and Cheonha Jeon of Yale contributed to the work.

The study was funded by the American Association of University Women, the Yale Institute of Biospheric Studies and Yale University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. K. L. Prudic, C. Jeon, H. Cao, A. Monteiro. Developmental Plasticity in Sexual Roles of Butterfly Species Drives Mutual Sexual Ornamentation. Science, 2011; 331 (6013): 73 DOI: 10.1126/science.1197114

Cite This Page:

Yale University. "When it's cool, female butterflies chase males in sex role reversal." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110106144524.htm>.
Yale University. (2011, January 9). When it's cool, female butterflies chase males in sex role reversal. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110106144524.htm
Yale University. "When it's cool, female butterflies chase males in sex role reversal." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110106144524.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins