The evolution of territoriality in butterflies

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Zoology, Stockholm University

Abstract: Competition over mating opportunities is a conspicuous characteristic of animal behaviour. In many butterfly species the males establish territories in places advantageous for encountering females. This thesis addresses questions about how territoriality has evolved and is maintained in butterflies. The studies have been conducted using the speckled wood butterfly, Pararge aegeria, as a model species. Males of P. aegeria are found in sunspots on the forest floor (paper I-V), on the lookout for females visiting the sunspots. However, males are only found in sunspots above a certain size (paper III). This behavior is maintained by a mating success advantage, where using large sunspots instead of small sunspots as perching areas generates a higher reproductive output (paper I). The mating success asymmetry is not explained by female choice or by a female preference for large sunspots per se (paper I, V), but rather the large sunspot facilitates visual performance of perching males and improves flight pursuit and interception of females (paper III). Winners of territorial contests gain sole ownership of large sunspot territories, while losers search for a new suitable sunspot territory (paper I, II & IV) or use smaller, suboptimal sunspots as perching sites (paper II). Territorial contests between P. aegeria males are not settled due to an obvious morphological/physiological asymmetry (paper I). Rather, variation in resource value and motivational asymmetries are important for settling contests (paper IV). A majority of male-female interactions (paper V) and matings (paper I) are initiated by a perching male detecting and intercepting a flying female. Furthermore, females can affect their chances of being detected by a perching male by behaving more conspicuously (paper V). This thesis highlights the role of female behaviour, variation in resource value and motivation asymmetries to understand the evolution of territoriality in butterflies.