The effect of female mate preference on the evolution of Batesian mimicry

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Male and female Papilio glaucus were released in pairs in a flight cage to study courtship behavior and mate choice. The study was designed to test the hypothesis that females select the natural color pattern, an important aspect of the theory of the evolution of mimicry. Males were unpainted or were painted either yellow as a control or black to resemble a newly arisen mimetic pattern. Painted males were permitted three courtships to achieve a mating. Failure to mate was followed by the release of the other color of male to the same female.

The courtship flight was divided into four stages for analysis of sexual selection. Females directed solicitation flights more often to natural color than to black males, and these solicitation flights increased the number of interactions and courtships by males. Naturally colored males were rejected less frequently than the black ones in the early stages of courtship. Once the later stages were attained, there was no difference. The higher mating success and increased female solicitation which favored the yellow painted males over color-altered ones suggest that female-limited mimicry in P. glaucus is the result of selection by females for the non-mimetic pattern.