Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 247–258 | Cite as

Novel Wing-Flashing Behavior in a Scorpionfly (Panorpa debilis) May be Competitive

  • Brian R. Magnier
  • Graham A. Montgomery


Scorpionflies (Mecoptera: Panorpidae) are important models for studying sexual selection and mating strategies. However, much is still unknown about their behavior and natural history. Here we describe a wing-flashing behavior in a population of Panorpa debilis Westwood from central New York. Wing-flashing has been previously observed, but not described in Mecoptera. We use a combination of direct observation and video analysis in an attempt to understand the motivation behind this behavior: is wing-flashing behavior used for attraction of mates, for control of food resources, or perhaps neither? If wing-flashing is involved in mate attraction, we would expect skewed wing-flashing ratios between males and females and a high rate of wing-flashing aimed at conspecifics of the opposite sex. If the behavior is instead used for intraspecific competition for resources, we would expect a high degree of wing-flashing aimed at conspecifics of the same sex or indiscriminate of sex. We demonstrate that this behavior is non-random — and most likely competitive in nature — by showing that wing-flashing preferentially occurs near other individuals, and by comparing wing-flashing rates across males and females in a variety of situations. Both sexes used wing-flashes in response to the opposite sex, though most wing-flashes were female to female signals. Wing-flashing was even observed as a response to potentially competitive arthropods like harvestmen (Leiobunum spp.). In addition to their suitability as study organisms for mating behavior, P. debilis, may be a useful organism for studying animal communication and signaling.


Antagonistic behavior mecoptera panorpa scorpionfly signaling wing-flash 



We would like to thank Erika Mudrak from the Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit for her help with data analysis, along with Francoise Vermeylen and Lynn Johnson. We are also grateful to Cole Gilbert for his valuable input, and to two anonymous reviewers, whose comments improved the manuscript greatly.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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