Postural changes accompany perch location changes in male butterflies (Asterocampa leilia) engaged in visual mate searching

Ronald L. Rutowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Males of the nymphalid butterfly Asterocampa leilia perch and wait during the morning at places where females are likely to appear. Males leave their perches to court passing females and chase away intruding males. As air and ground temperatures rise during the morning, males switch from perching on the ground to perching off the ground (average height = 0.87 m) for thermoregulatory reasons. To evaluate how this switch in perch location might affect mate detection, I have investigated how the three-dimensional posture of the male's body and head varies with perch location and how conspecifics fly through male perching areas. The body posture of males varies with perch location, as measured by pitch and roll relative to gravity, and yaw relative to the sun. Moreover, the pitch and roll of the head relative to the body is adjusted in a way that compensates for variation in body pitch and roll. These results, along with information on conspecific flight altitudes, suggest that when a male is perched on the ground his visual system is positioned in such a way that he is less likely to detect conspecifics flying nearby than when he is perched off the ground. Hence, it appears that early in the morning visual detection of mates and intruding males may be compromised by thermoregulatory concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-466
Number of pages14
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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