Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 357–363 | Cite as

Fluctuating asymmetry, interspecific aggression and male mating tactics in two species of Japanese scorpionflies

  • Randy Thornhill


Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) is defined as small, random deviations from bilateral symmetry in a generally perfect bilaterally symmetrical morphological trait. FA in forewing length affects the outcomes of interspecific contests for food items (dead arthropods) between two species of Japanese scorpionflies, Panorpa nipponensis and P. ochraceopennis, in nature. FA differences between same-sex contestants are more important than either body size or ownership of food in determining the outcomes of interspecific contests; for both sexes, winners statistically significantly more often have relatively low FA. Two condition-dependent mating tactics are used by the males of each species: (a) a male may defend a dead-arthropod nuptial gift, or (b) a male without such an arthropod may wait near a male with one. In both tactics, males release long-distance sex pheromones. Groups of pheromone-releasing males are made up of one male with a nuptial gift and his satellites; the males in a group may be conspecifics or heterospecifics. Males that lose contests for nuptial gifts often become satellites of the contest winners whether or not winners are conspecific. Satellite males have statistically significantly greater FA than males with nuptial gifts in heterospecific male display groups. Satellite males mate infrequently and briefly compared to resource-holding males. Satellites of heterospecific males copulate with conspecific females displaced from nuptial gifts by the resource-holding males of the other species. In both species, the largest and smallest individuals have the greatest FA, and intermediate-sized individuals have the least; this same pattern often occurs in other animals.


Male Mating Fluctuate Asymmetry Bilateral Symmetry Random Deviation Conspecific Female 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Randy Thornhill
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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