Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 801–814

Cues for Mate Recognition and the Effect of Prior Experience on Mate Recognition in Enallagma Damselflies

  • Michelle N. Miller
  • Ola M. Fincke

DOI: 10.1023/A:1020957110842

Cite this article as:
Miller, M.N. & Fincke, O.M. Journal of Insect Behavior (1999) 12: 801. doi:10.1023/A:1020957110842


In many coenagrionid damselflies, sexually mature females exhibit color polymorphisms, with some females resembling conspecific males. Although it has been suggested that the latter function as male mimics, this does not appear to be the case for those in the genus Enallagma. We found that sexually dimorphic coloration of the female abdomen and thorax are important cues for sexual recognition by males. We demonstrate for the first time in the Odonata, that males learn to recognize andromorphs as potential mates. After 2 days in an enclosure, sexually mature males exposed to only andromorphic females initiated more sexual interactions with tethered andromorphs than with heteromorphs, the majority morph in the natural population. Exposure to only heteromorphic females tended to decrease males' sexual responses to andromorphs, but not significantly so. Because the frequency of female morphs often varies within a population, learned mate recognition would be advantageous for males that search for mates. Our results lead to a novel, frequency-dependent hypothesis for the occurrence and maintenance of female-limited color polymorphisms.

learningmate recognitionCoenagrionidaeinsectfrequency-dependent selection

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle N. Miller
    • 1
  • Ola M. Fincke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OklahomaNorman
  2. 2.Science DepartmentBlue Mountain Community CollegePendleton