Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 415–422 | Cite as

Male mating bias and its potential reproductive consequence in the butterfly Colias eurytheme

  • Darrell J. KempEmail author
  • Joseph M. Macedonia
Original Article


Male mating biases may be a widespread feature of animal mating systems but the phenotypic consequences of these biases are often unclear, especially in species for which the operational sex ratio is strongly male-biased. In Colias butterflies, male choice is thought to be one of the factors responsible for maintaining a female-limited genetic color polymorphism, in which female wings appear either yellowish-orange or white (the “alba” variant). Previous studies have indicated that alba females of two montane Colias species mate fewer times during their lifetime, possibly as a partial consequence of this bias. Here we report the results of a field study of male mating behavior and female mating biology in Colias eurytheme, conducted under conditions of high (summer) and low (spring) population densities. Our data show that despite a substantial male bias in approaching alba vs yellowish-orange phenotypes [ratios of 0.08:1 (spring) and 0.28:1 (summer)], alba females did not contain, on average, fewer or smaller spermatophores. Not one of the 308 sampled females was virgin, but females of both phenotypes accumulated spermatophores with age, and tended to carry fewer, larger spermatophores in spring. These data suggest that significantly fewer (or lighter) spermatophores need not be an obligatory or simple consequence of a strong male bias in butterflies. We discuss these findings in light of the known, thermally and density-dependent complexities of alba reproductive biology and of the Colias mating system.


Alba polymorphism Lepidoptera Mate choice Sexual selection Spermatophore 



This manuscript benefited greatly from the critical comments and helpful suggestions of Prof. Ward B. Watt (Stanford University). We also thank Profs. John Alcock and Ronald L. Rutowski (Arizona State University) for their comments and R. L. Rutowski for providing financial support through NSF grant no. 0316120.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityCairnsAustralia
  2. 2.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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