Thermoregulatory differences between phenotypes in the speckled wood butterfly: hot perchers and cold patrollers?
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Males of the speckled wood butterfly Pararge aegeria L. (Satyrinae), actively search for females (“patrolling”) or wait for them at particular places (“perching”). Darker males are more likely to patrol than pale ones, which are mainly territorial perchers. We studied whether this morphological variation relates to thermoregulatory differences. The relationship between thoracic temperature and ambient temperature differed between the colour types under natural conditions: darker males had on average lower body temperatures than paler males. Different activities (e.g. resting, flying) and behavioural strategies (perching or patrolling) were associated with differences in thoracic temperature: patrolling males which mainly engaged in long flights and periods of basking afterwards, had lower thoracic temperatures than perching males which engaged in very short flights, fights and basking. When resting for a while thoracic temperatures did not differ between males practising different strategies. Under laboratory conditions, darker males heated up faster than pale males but there was no difference in the thoracic temperature at which they started to fly. These results indicate that thermal requirements (or general conditions) differ between the behavioural strategies, and that behavioural differences between phenotypes (colour types) relate to differences in thermal ecology. This supports the idea that darker males are better adapted to patrolling. There is no evidence that one mate-locating strategy is always superior to the other, which coincides with the observation that both strategies co-exist. More generally, this study shows that relatively small differences in colour can have a considerable effect on thermoregulation and hence on the behavioural strategies a heliothermic insect will adopt.
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