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Patterns of feeding behaviour in adult male riodinid butterflies and their relationship to morphology and ecology

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Abstract:

Adult butterflies are known to visit a wide variety of food substrates, but, with the exception of flower visitation, little is known about what substances are being sought or what determines substrate choice. This is especially true for the Riodinidae, a large family [c. 1300 spp.) of almost exclusively Neotropical butterflies. We present adult male feeding records for 124 species in 41 genera of Riodinidae (out of a total of 441 species in 85 genera collected in the study), based on ten months sampling in Ecuador. Records of food substrates visited in this study include flowers, damp sand or mud (‘puddling’) and rotting carrion. Rotting carrion placed in traps was the most frequently recorded food source in terms of numbers of individuals and taxa, attracting 89 species from 32 genera. A correlation is found between food substrate choice and morphology, specifically wing area to thoracic volume ratio (WA: TV ratio). Our data suggest the possible existence of two adaptive syndromes whose species have significantly different mean WA:TV ratios and differing suites of accompanying ecological traits, with lower ratios being significantiy correlated with species that were recorded feeding. Among species recorded feeding, carrion feeders and puddlers have significantly lower mean WA:TV ratios than flower nectarers, and carrion feeders have a lower mean WA:TV ratio than species not recorded on this food source, a correlation that is significant across all tribes and within some tribes (Riodinini and Saratoni). We reanalyse previously published data on flight and morphology for species in other butterfly and moth families and show mat the ratio of wing area to thoracic mass is significantly negatively correlated with flight speed and oxygen consumption (a direct indicator of metabolic rate). We suggest that adult male riodinids may puddle and feed at rotting carrion to supplement nutrient stores from larval feeding, not only to increase reproductive success, but also to provide the necessary nutrients to maintain high metabolic rates during rapid flight.

Document Type: Original Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2000.tb01666.x

Affiliations: Department of Entomology and hematology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, U.S.A.

Publication date: January 1, 2000

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