University of Oulu

Reproductive tactics in butterflies – the adaptive significance of monandry versus polyandry in Pieris napi

Saved in:
Author: Välimäki, Panu1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: 2007
Publish Date: 2007-05-15
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic dissertation to be presented, with the assent of the Faculty of Science of the University of Oulu, for public defence in Kuusamonsali (Auditorium YB210), Linnanmaa, on May 26th, 2007, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Docent Bengt Karlsson
Professor Toomas Tammaru


Females may either mate with one (monandry) or several (polyandry) males during a single breeding season. The polyandrous mating system has prompted numerous studies since the recognition of a widespread occurrence of mixed paternity among animals. Consequently, the benefits of polyandry have become well-established, and the female role in sexual selection upgraded. Females may gain both material and genetic benefits from multiple mating. Hence, the occurrence of polyandry is understandable, whereas monandry remains an evolutionary puzzle especially among species with male nutrient provisioning.

I studied both the life history variation among female mating tactics and the adaptive significance of monandry in varying environmental conditions in the green-veined white butterfly [Pieris napi, (L. 1758)], which is a predominantly polyandrous species with nuptial feeding. I used a combination of explicit laboratory experiments and field studies.

My results show that monandry and degrees of polyandry are distinct strategies with life history differences reaching beyond mating frequencies. Polyandry corresponded with a higher lifetime fecundity than monandry in P. napi. Polyandry was, however, associated with relatively low fecundity during the early days of reproduction. Thus, monandry is beneficial if time for reproduction is limited severely enough or other female traits or behaviours associated with polyandry are traded off against longevity. Due to temporal variation in reproductive rate among mating tactics, offspring of polyandrous females have less time to complete development. Accordingly, polyandrous females developed at a faster rate as larvae than monandrous ones under optimal conditions. Despite growth rate variation, monandrous females were more likely to contribute to additional summer generation in conditions that allow production of only a partial second generation, and thus monandry is favoured under these conditions. Genetic variation in female mating tactics will not only prevail if environmental conditions do not allow all individuals to contribute evenly to the directly breeding generation in bivoltine populations, but also if even the production of a single generation per year is time-limited.

A general conclusion would be that seasonality and unpredictability of fitness in the wild drives the evolution of optimal female mating tactics and promotes the maintenance genetic variation in mating frequencies, regardless of the direct benefits of nuptial feeding. Even if a high degree of polyandry would be the most profitable mating tactic in an average year, strong annual variation in weather conditions and the duration of summer may create possibilities for a temporally fluctuating selection that promotes a co-existence of different mating tactics because variance of fitness is likely increase with an increasing mating frequency.

see all

Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 978-951-42-8484-7
ISBN Print: 978-951-42-8483-0
Issue: 487
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2007. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.