Adaptive and incidental consequences of the alba polymorphism in an agricultural population of Colias butterflies: female size, fecundity, and differential dispersion

George W. Gilchrist, Ronald L. Rutowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


A sex-limited color dimorphism occurs in many populations of Colias eurytheme. Alba females exhibit different patterns of resource allocation and are less attractive than orange females. This study examines some of the consequences of these differences in terms of reproductive success and population structure in a high density agricultural population. Alba females produced more eggs than orange females on a daily basis, but the morphs did not differ in three measures of size. Spermatophore counts revealed that fresh and worn females did not differ in mating frequency between the two morphs, but very worn alba females gained more matings than very worn orange females. In two mark-release-recapture experiments, alba females exhibited longer residence times than orange females. Changes in population structure over time suggest that this was due to dispersal of orange females from the mature field. Evidence is presented that orange females emigrate in response to male harassment at high density while alba females, exposed to less harassment, remain behind. We suggest that the persistence of the polymorphism in this agricultural population is at least partially facilitated by the cyclic cutting of the alfalfa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-240
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1986


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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