Royal Society Publishing

Female choice depends on size but not symmetry of dorsal eyespots in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana

Casper J. Breuker , Paul M. Brakefield

Abstract

The eyespots on the ventral wings of Bicyclus anynana butterflies are exposed when at rest and interact with predators. Those on the dorsal surface are not exposed in this way, and may be involved in courtship and mate choice. In this study, we examined whether the size and fluctuating asymmetry (FA) of dorsal eyespots are reliable signals of male quality. High developmental stability is considered to result in low FA, and to be associated with high quality. Individuals of high quality are predicted to produce sexually selected traits that are large and symmetrical, at a relatively low cost. In this study, we manipulated eyespot development to uncouple eyespot size and FA in order to examine their independent roles in signalling to the female. Individual females in cages were given the choice between two or three males differing in eyespot traits. The results indicate that although size per se of the eyespots is used as a signal, FA and wing size are not. We discuss the use of FA in studies of sexual selection and aspects of sexual selection on dorsal eyespot size.

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