Why small is beautiful: wing colour is free from thermoregulatory constraint in the small lycaenid butterfly, Polyommatus icarus

De Keyser, Rien; Breuker, Casper J.; Hails, Rosemary S.; Dennis, Roger L.H.; Shreeve, Tim G.. 2015 Why small is beautiful: wing colour is free from thermoregulatory constraint in the small lycaenid butterfly, Polyommatus icarus. PLoS ONE, 10 (4), e0122623. 13, pp.

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We examined the roles of wing melanisation, weight, and basking posture in thermoregulation in Polyommatus Icarus, a phenotypically variable and protandrous member of the diverse Polyommatinae (Lycaenidae). Under controlled experimental conditions, approximating to marginal environmental conditions for activity in the field (= infrequent flight, long duration basking periods), warming rates are maximised with fully open wings and maximum body temperatures are dependent on weight. Variation in wing melanisation within and between sexes has no effect on warming rates; males and females which differ in melanisation had similar warming rates. Posture also affected cooling rates, consistent with cooling being dependent on convective heat loss. We hypothesise that for this small sized butterfly, melanisation has little or no effect on thermoregulation. This may be a factor contributing to the diversity of wing colours in the Polyommatinae. Because of the importance of size for thermoregulation in this small butterfly, requirements for attaining a suitable size to confer thermal stability in adults may also be a factor influencing larval feeding rates, development time and patterns of voltinism. Our findings indicate that commonly accepted views of the importance of melanisation, posture and size to thermoregulation, developed using medium and large sized butterflies, are not necessarily applicable to small sized butterflies.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Directors, SCs
ISSN: 1932-6203
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Biology and Microbiology
Date made live: 30 Sep 2015 11:04 +0 (UTC)

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