Meeting Abstract

59.3  Thursday, Jan. 6  Butterflies learn to like novel wing patterns, but learning that more is better is easier than learning that less is more WESTERMAN, E.L.*; MONTEIRO, A.; Yale University; Yale University

Sexual ornaments and the preferences for these ornaments are gained and lost throughout evolutionary time. One factor that may influence the frequency of gains and losses is the ability of animals to form plastic preferences for presence or absence of an ornament. While a number of models demonstrate mate preference plasticity, studies testing preference plasticity for both a gain and a loss of a sexual ornament are rare. We explored whether female mate preference for both a gain and a loss of a sexual ornament can be modified by social experience in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana. We determined naïve preference of wild type (wt) females for wt males with two UV-reflective spots on their wings (2sp) or modified wt males with either a gain in sexual ornaments (4sp), or a loss of sexual ornaments (0sp) via choice experiments. We tested plasticity of mate preference by isolating newly emerged wt females, exposing them to 1 2sp, 1 4sp, or 1 0sp male for 3hrs, and testing realized mate preference in choice trials between 2sp and 4sp males or 2sp and 0sp males. We tested the effect of male behavior on female mating patterns by observing the 3hr exposure periods and correlating male activity with mating outcome. Wt females had a naïve preference for 2sp over both 4sp and 0sp males. Females exposed to 4sp males mated more frequently with 4sp males than unexposed females, however those exposed to 0sp males still preferred 2sp males. Those females exposed to the most active 0sp males during the training period preferred to mate with 0sp males. These results suggest that insects have the ability to learn a mate preference for a gain or loss of a sexual ornament, but learning a gain appears to be easier than learning a loss.