, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 395-402

Mass and production rate of ejaculates in relation to monandry/polyandry in butterflies

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Summary

The mating system maintained in a species has a strong effect on the degree of sperm competition, and certainty of paternity should accordingly influence the optimal sperm content, nutrient content, and mass of the ejaculate. We investigated how ejaculate mass relates to the degree of polyandry in 20 species of butterflies belonging to the families Pieridae and Satyridae. We found that the degree of polyandry has a substantial effect on the reproductive performance of males. The allometric line between ejaculate mass and male body mass has a higher elevation in the pierids compared to the satyrids. The mean number of matings performed by the pierid species is also higher compared to the mean of the satyrids. Thus, the relative ejaculate mass is larger in the family in which polyandry is more pronounced. A within family effect of degree of polyandry on relative ejaculate mass was also detected in the pierids. Since males of polyandrous species on average mate more often than males of monandrous species, they should be expected to have a higher capacity for producing many ejaculates. We investigated how this capacity was influenced by the degree of polyandry, by allowing males of seven different species (Danaus plexippus, Lasiommata megera, Papilio machaon, Pararge aegeria, Pieris napi, Pieris rapae, and Polygonia c-album) to mate twice, with different time intervals between matings. The results showed that not only is the mass of the ejaculate greater in more polyandrous species, but also the rate at which males are able to produce sperm and accessory substances is greater. Hence our data indicate that sperm competition is important for explaining variation in ejaculate mass in butterflies.