Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Females butterflies can smell if a male butterfly is inbred

Date:
March 5, 2013
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
The mating success of male butterflies is often lower if they are inbred. But how do female butterflies know which males to avoid? New research reveals that inbred male butterflies produce significantly less sex pheromones, making them less attractive to females.

Tropical butterfly Bicyclus anynana (male).
Credit: Photo by Erik van Bergen, Limpopo, South Africa

The mating success of male butterflies is often lower if they are inbred. But how do female butterflies know which males to avoid? New research reveals that inbred male butterflies produce significantly less sex pheromones, making them less attractive to females.

The research was published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

If animals (and humans) breed with a relative their offspring will be inbred and more likely to have genetic disorders. Because of these disorders inbred males are often weaker and, for instance, less able to defend the nest or provide food for their youngsters. To make sure her offspring will have the highest chance of survival and reproduction, females are expected to avoid mating with a weak inbred male. That is, if she is able to recognize who is inbred and who is not.

Erik van Bergen, currently at the University of Cambridge and formerly with Leiden University, where he conducted much of the research, said: "Interestingly, traits used by males to attract the opposite sex are often strongly affected by inbreeding and might be used by females to recognize inbred individuals. For example, inbred male zebra finches produce a lower number of different individual songs and inbred male guppies have less conspicuous colour patterns. Additionally, in one cricket species, the inbred males are known to produce less acoustic signals while trying to attract females."

For the butterfly Bicyclus anynana, it is critical that the female avoids breeding with an inbred male as some 50 per cent of the latter are completely sterile. As a result, if a female mates with a sterile inbred male none of her eggs will hatch, and she will therefore produce no offspring.

For the study, the researchers produced inbred butterflies by ensuring that sisters could only reproduce with their own brothers. The male inbred offspring were then tested for their flight performance (as an index of general condition) and the amount of sex pheromones they produced. The researchers found that the general condition of the inbred males was worse, and that they also produced less sex pheromones then normal outbred males.

Next, to test whether the low mating success of inbred males could be restored, the scientists released males and females in a large cage. The genitals of the males were marked with fluorescent dust with different colours for inbred and outbred males. During mating, this dust is transferred to the female and can later be detected using UV light. The antennae of some of the females were painted over with nail polish to prevent them from detecting the amount of sex pheromone produced by males.

During the experiment, females with the treated antennae and therefore no sense of smell had no preference and mated with inbred and normal outbred males equally. In contrast, females with untreated antennae (and thus able to detect the sex pheromone differences) mated significantly more often with normal outbred males. These results indicate that the lower production of sex pheromones by inbred males, and not the general health of the inbred butterflies, is the reason for the low mating success of inbred males.

van Bergen added: "We know that inbreeding contributes to the decline and eventual extinction of small and isolated populations, so it is valuable to have more knowledge about the processes involved in general."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. van Bergen, P. M. Brakefield, S. Heuskin, B. J. Zwaan, C. M. Nieberding. The scent of inbreeding: a male sex pheromone betrays inbred males. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2013; 280 (1758): 20130102 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.0102

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Females butterflies can smell if a male butterfly is inbred." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130305200457.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2013, March 5). Females butterflies can smell if a male butterfly is inbred. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130305200457.htm
University of Cambridge. "Females butterflies can smell if a male butterfly is inbred." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130305200457.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Center for Science in the Public Interest released its 2014 list of single meals with whopping calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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