Adaptive wing asymmetry in males of the speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria)?

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 5.68). 05/2013; 266:1413-1418. DOI:10.1098/rspb.1999.0795
Source: PubMed Central

ABSTRACT We analysed asymmetry in the wings of the speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria)by measuring area, length and width of fore- and hindwings. The type of asymmetry is fluctuating except for fore- and hindwing area, and forewing width in males, where asymmetry is directional. The amount of asymmetry (variance of the left wing minus the right wing) is less in males than in females. Within males asymmetry was directional and less in pale, predominantly territorial males than in melanic, predominantly non-territorial males. Asymmetry was negatively related to growth rate within females, but not within males. Females grew faster than males, but had higher asymmetry, whereas the more asymmetrical melanic males grew more slowly than pale males. The differences in the type and amount of asymmetry between the sexes and colour classes suggest a relationship with sex-specific flight patterns such as the territorial spiralling flight of males. We hypothesize that slightly asymmetrical males turn faster, and therefore are superior in territorial disputes over more symmetrical or extremely asymmetrical males. This implies that sexual selection via male–male competition influences the type and amount of asymmetry. The existence of more extremely asymmetrical individuals in females, and to a lesser extent in non-territorial males, may indicate that there are costs in reducing asymmetry.

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