Tropical Ecology and Conservation [Monteverde Institute]

Alternative Title

El tamaño del cuerpo y la selección sexual en Heliconius charitonius y Heliconius melpomene (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)


Megan Petrie



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Publication Date

May 2007


The role played by body size in sexual selection was investigated in captive populations of Heliconius charitonius and Heliconius melpomene butterflies. Mean fore-wing lengths of the entire population were compared to those of individuals participating in mating and pre-mating behaviors. It was predicted that because fitness in butterflies often increases with size (Klingenberg and Spence 1997), Heliconius spp. should choose larger mates. Sexes did not differ in size for either species (H. charitonius: Males = 41.14 mm ± 2.41, n = 57; Females = 41.28 mm ± 3.40, n = 48. H. melpomene: Males = 36.29 mm ± 2.54, n = 30; Females = 36.01 ± 1.82, n = 38). Moreover, there were no differences in size for any of the precopulatory behaviors seen compared to those for the general populations. No evidence of assortative mating was found when comparing pairs of males and females in later stages of courtship (p = 0.622, R2 = 0.0193, n = 30). Matings were infrequent, but showed no size difference except for H. melpomene males, who were significantly smaller (34.45 mm ± 1.79, n = 13, t = 2.714, p =0.011, d.f. = 32). Therefore, mating in these two species of Heliconius seems to be independent of body size. Perhaps body size does not impact fitness, or other factors, such as chemical defense, agility or age are more important fitness indicators in these species.


Se investigó el papel del tamaño del cuerpo en la selección sexual investigado en poblaciones cautivas de las mariposas de la especie Heliconius charitonius y Heliconius melpomene. Comparé los promedios de las longitudes de las alas de todas las mariposas que estaban apareando y que tuvieron un comportamiento de cortejo.


Nymphalidae, Natural selection, Sexual selection in animals, CIEE Spring 2007

Palabras claves

Selección natural, Selección sexual en animales, CIEE Primavera 2007


10 pages

Geographic Location

Monteverde (Puntarenas, Costa Rica)

Holding Location

Monteverde Institute


English; Spanish

Media Type



Digital Only





Body size and sexual selection in Heliconius charitonius and Heliconius melpomene (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae), May 2007



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