Reflectance spectra and mating patterns support intraspecific mimicry in the colour polymorphic damselfly **Ischnura elegans**
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Evolutionary ecology. - London
, p. 139-154
University of Antwerp
Coexistence of female colour morphs in animal populations is often considered the result of sexual conflict, where polymorphic females benefit from reduced male sexual harassment. Mate-searching males easily detect suitable partners when only one type of female is present, but become challenged when multiple female morphs coexist, which may result in frequency-dependent mate preferences. Intriguingly, in damselflies, one female morph often closely resembles the conspecific male in body coloration, which has lead to hypotheses regarding intra-specific male-mimicry. However, few studies have quantitatively evaluated the correspondence between colour reflectance spectra from males and male-like females, relying instead on qualitative visual assessments of coloration. Using colour analyses of reflectance spectra, we compared characteristics of the body coloration of ontogenetic male and female colour morphs of the damselfly Ischnura elegans. In addition, we evaluated whether males appear to (1) discriminate between immature and mature female colour morphs, and (2) whether male-like females experience reduced male mating attention and low mating frequencies as predicted from male-mimicry. Spectral reflectance data show that immature female morphs differ substantially in coloration from mature individuals. Mating frequencies were much lower for immature than mature female morphs. For the male-like female morph, measures of colour were statistically indistinguishable from that of both immature and mature conspecific males. Mating frequencies of male-like females were lower than those of other mature female morphs under field and experimental conditions. Together, our results indicate that males may use the observed spectral differences in mate choice decisions. Furthermore, male-like females may be regarded as functional mimics that have reduced attractiveness and lowered rates of sexual harassment by mate-searching males.