Mating system and the evolution of sex-specific mortality rates in two nymphalid butterflies

Christer Wiklund, Karl Gotthard, Sören Nylin

Abstract

Life-history theory predicts that organisms should invest resources into intrinsic components of lifespan only to the degree that it pays off in terms of reproductive success. The benefit of a long life may differ between the sexes and different mating systems may therefore select for different sex-specific mortality rates. In insects with polyandrous mating systems, females mate throughout their lives and male reproductive success is likely to increase monotonously with lifespan. In monandrous systems, where the mating season is less protracted because receptive females are available only at the beginning of the flight season, male mating success should be less dependent on a long lifespan. Here, we show, in a laboratory experiment without predation, that the duration of the mating season is longer in the polyandrous comma butterfly, Polygonia c-album, than in the monandrous peacock butterfly, Inachis io, and that, in line with predictions, male lifespan is shorter than female lifespan in I. io, whereas male and female lifespans are similar in P. c-album.