Phylogenetic, habitat, and behavioural aspects of possum behaviour in European Lepidoptera

Shreeve, Tim G.; Dennis, Roger L.H.; Wakeham-Dawson, Andrew. 2006 Phylogenetic, habitat, and behavioural aspects of possum behaviour in European Lepidoptera. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera, 39. 80-85.

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We describe the behaviour of playing possum, or thanatosis, in mate rejection by non-receptive female butterflies of the Satyrinae of the Palearactic. In this behaviour females feign death with closed wings and release themselves from the substrate on which they are settled. This behaviour only occurs with extreme male persistence and is the final part of a mate-rejection behavioural sequence. We suggest that this behaviour may be relatively rare, possibly restricted to the tribes Elymiini and Maniolini. There are potential associations with female mating frequency, male mate-locating mechanisms and the physical structure of habitats where attempted mating occurs. We suggest that the behaviour occurs in species where females occasionally mate more than once, where the predominant male mating strategy is a perching sit-and-wait tactic and the species occupy woodland structures. In such circumstances males have relatively few opportunities to mate, male-female encounter rates may be relatively infrequent and the physical structure of the habitat allows females that adopt possum mate-rejection to escape from males by dropping into vegetation. We encourage further observations on this behaviour to allow a thorough analysis of its frequency amongst species in order to allow a phylogenetic analysis.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biodiversity > BD01 Conservation and Restoration of Biodiversity > BD01.3 Population and community processes
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 0022-4324
Additional Keywords: Lepidoptera, male persistence, mate rejection
NORA Subject Terms: Zoology
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Date made live: 27 Apr 2011 15:01 +0 (UTC)

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