, Volume 122, Issue 1, pp 36-43

Mating opportunity and the evolution of sex-specific mortality rates in a butterfly

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Life history theory predicts that organisms should only invest resources into intrinsic components of life span to the degree that it pays off in terms of reproductive success. Here, we investigate if the temporal distribution of mating opportunities may have influenced the evolution of intrinsic mortality rates in the butterfly Pararge aegeria (Satyrinae). In this species, females mate only once and the frequency of male mating opportunities depends on the temporal emergence pattern of virgin females. As expected, in a population from Madeira where females emerge continuously throughout the year, there was no sex difference in adult life span, while in a Swedish population with synchronised female emergence, males had significantly shorter life spans compared to females. A logistic mortality model provided the best fit to the observed change in age-specific mortality and all categories reached an asymptotic mortality rate of a similar magnitude. However, the Swedish males reached this mortality plateau more rapidly than the other categories. External mortality, due to water and food limitation, affected the pattern of sex-specific mortality but males from Sweden still had higher rates of mortality compared to all other categories. We argue that selection on male longevity is likely to be weaker in Sweden because under synchronised emergence, all females emerge and mate within a short period of time, after which male reproductive value will quickly approach zero. On Madeira, however, male reproductive value decrease more slowly with age since the probability of finding a receptive female is constant over the year.

Received: 29 July 1999 / Accepted: 23 August 1999