In the eyes of the beholders: Female choice and avian predation risk associated with an exaggerated male butterfly color

Nathan I. Morehouse, Ronald L. Rutowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Scopus citations

Abstract

Color ornaments are often viewed as products of countervailing sexual and natural selection, because more colorful, more attractive individuals may also be more conspicuous to predators. However, while evidence for such countervailing selection exists for vertebrate color ornaments (e.g., Trinidadian guppies), similar studies have yet to be reported in invertebrates. Indeed, evidence for female mate choice based on extant variation in male coloration is limited in invertebrates, and researchers have not explicitly asked whether more attractive males are also more conspicuous to predators. Here we provide evidence that more chromatic male cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae) are more attractive to females but should also be more conspicuous to predators. Female P. rapae preferentially mate with more chromatic males when choosing from populations of males with naturally occurring or commensurate, experimentally induced color variation. Mathematical models of female color vision confirm that females should be able to discriminate color differences between prospective mates. Further, chromatic and luminance contrast scores from female visual system models better predicted male mating success than did measures of male color derived more directly from color spectra. Last, models of avian color vision suggest that preferred males should be more conspicuous to known avian predators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)768-784
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume176
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

Keywords

  • Avian vision
  • Color ornament
  • Color vision modeling
  • Mate choice
  • Pieris rapae
  • Sexual selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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