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Female butterflies go for sparkle -- not size -- when choosing to mate

nts that lead up to mating.

"When the male approaches the female, he opens and closes his wings in rapid succession so she can observe his pupils," she explained. "We believe the purpose of the fluttering of his wings is two-fold: to spread pheromones to her antennae and to stimulate her visually. The female appears to be very sensitive to this rapid flickering, which probably looks to her like a strobe-light effect."

Robertson added that while these conclusions are applicable only to this particular species of butterfly, other species of related butterflies feature much broader UV reflective patterns on their wings in the form of blue or violet bands of coloration.

"Our assumption is that they are there for sexual selection purposes as well," she said, "but we still don't know what causes the change from a female's preference for relatively small pupils in this species to the likely female preference for much larger UV-reflective patterns in these other species."

Monteiro says her next step is to study the role of eyespots in male mate choice, since females also display them and it is not clear who actually has a chance to observe them, since the female butterfly usually hides them at rest.


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Source:University at Buffalo


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