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Sexual cooperation, conflict, and the evolution of chemical signals: the case of Heliconius butterflies

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dr. Catalina Estrada

Section of Integrative Biology,

The University of Texas, Austin


Sexual interactions in animals often involve complex behaviors that facilitate species recognition and mate choice. Signals involved in such a type of communication are not just driven by these intraspecific interactions, but are also constrained by selection pressures from a complex network of species and several abiotic factors. Identifying the mechanisms that control sexual behaviors combined with comparative analyses of their variation in a phylogenetic context is a powerful tool to identify the importance of such sources of selection. Heliconius is a diverse genus of toxic and mimetic butterflies whose well-known ecological interactions and phylogeny makes them an excellent model system to study signal evolution. In this talk I show two examples of chemically mediated sexual behaviors in butterflies that have evolved as the result of male competition for mates: 1) reduction of female’s attractiveness due to antiaphrodisiac pheromones, and 2) mate guarding. In both cases I identify the possible sources of selection on the evolution of this chemical signals and discuss what they reveal about the balance between sexual cooperation and conflict in the reproduction of Heliconius

Tri Beta Biological Honor Society and Department of Biology present: