The use of chemical and visual cues in female choice in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana

Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Mar 22;274(1611):845-51. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2006.3729.


Investigating the relative importance of multiple cues for mate choice within a species may highlight possible mechanisms that led to the diversification of closely related species in the past. Here, we investigate the importance of close-range pheromones produced by male Bicyclus anynana butterflies and determine the relative importance of these chemical cues versus visual cues in sexual selection by female choice. We first blocked putative androconial organs on the fore- and hindwings of males, while also manipulating the ability of females to perceive chemical signals via their antenna. We found that male chemical signals were emitted by both fore- and hindwing pairs and that they play an important role in female choice. We subsequently tested the relative importance of these chemical cues versus visual cues, previously identified for this species, and found that they play an equally important role in female choice in our laboratory setting. In addition, females will mate with males with only one signal present and blocking both androconial organs on males seems to interfere with male to male recognition. We discuss the possible functions of these signals and how this bimodal system may be used in intra- and interspecific mate evaluation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Butterflies / anatomy & histology
  • Butterflies / metabolism
  • Butterflies / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mating Preference, Animal*
  • Sex Attractants / biosynthesis*
  • Wings, Animal / anatomy & histology
  • Wings, Animal / physiology


  • Sex Attractants