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On the sex-specific mechanisms of butterfly flight: flight performance relative to flight morphology, wing kinematics, and sex in Pararge aegeria

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Many evolutionary ecological studies have documented sexual dimorphism in morphology or behaviour. However, to what extent a sex-specific morphology is used differently to realize a certain level of behavioural performance is only rarely tested. We experimentally quantified flight performance and wing kinematics (wing beat frequency and wing stroke amplitude) and flight morphology (thorax mass, body mass, forewing aspect ratio, and distance to centre of forewing area) in the butterfly Pararge aegeria (L.) using a tethered tarsal reflex induced flight set-up under laboratory conditions. On average, females showed higher flight performance than males, but frequency and amplitude did not differ. In both sexes, higher flight performance was partly determined by wing beat frequency but not by wing stroke amplitude. Dry body mass, thorax mass, and distance to centre of forewing area were negatively related to wing beat frequency. The relationship between aspect ratio and wing stroke amplitude was sex-specific: females with narrower wings produced higher amplitude whereas males show the opposite pattern. The results are discussed in relation to sexual differences in flight behaviour. © 2006 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2006, 89, 675–687.

Keywords: adaptation; behaviour; biomechanics; functional morphology; wing beat frequency; wing stroke amplitude

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Belgium 2: Biodiversity Research Centre, Ecology & Biogeography Unit, Catholic University of Louvain (UCL), Belgium

Publication date: December 1, 2006


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