No Evidence that Male Choice Contributes to the Maintenance of a Shared, Sex-Limited Trait in Mimetic and Non-mimetic Female Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies, Papilio glaucus

Matthew L. Aardema, J. Mark Scriber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


In animal species that have morphological polymorphisms maintained by unique or divergent selection pressures, understanding the preservation of shared traits is important for identifying the factors that are influencing overall evolutionary processes. In the Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly, Papilio glaucus, females are dimorphic. One morph ('dark-morph') is mostly black and mimics the toxic pipevine swallowtail, Battus philenor. These females have large amounts of blue coloration on the dorsal hind wings that enhances their mimetic resemblance. Conversely, the alternate female type ('yellow-morph') is similar to males in coloration with the exception of extensive dorsal blue coloration, comparable to dark-morph females. Such coloration is almost completely absent in males. We examined dorsal blue coloration in P. glaucus to determine if mimetic resemblance in dark morphs is predominantly responsible for the maintenance of dorsal blue color in both female types, or whether mate recognition and/or sexual selection by males has a stronger influence on this trait. We measured the relative amount and variance of dorsal and ventral blue coloration in females of both color morphs, as well as males. We also compared these measurements to similar ones taken in the sister species, P. canadensis (which does not exhibit female dimorphism). Lastly, we investigated mate recognition and preferences of wild males. Our results suggest that mimetic resemblance may be more important than sexual selection for sustaining dorsal blue coloration in dark-morph females and that yellow-morphs could have elevated levels of blue due to currently unknown genetic associations. Although trait correlation between sexes is common, intrasexual trait correlation in a sex-limited, polymorphic species has not been frequently observed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-116
Number of pages9
JournalEvolutionary Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2013



  • Coloration
  • Lepidoptera
  • Mate recognition
  • Mimicry
  • Papilio canadensis
  • Papilio glaucus
  • Polymorphism
  • Tiger swallowtail butterfly

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