A survival cost to mating in a polyandrous butterfly, Colias eurytheme


  • Darrell J. Kemp,

  • Ronald L. Rutowski

D. J. Kemp and R. L. Rutowski, Dept of Biology, Arizona State Univ., Tempe, AZ 85287–1501, USA. Present address for DJK: Dept of Zoology, Univ. of Stockholm, Stockholm SE-10691, Sweden (darrell.kemp@zoologi.su.se).


Adaptations that enhance fitness in one sex may be harmful to members of the opposite sex and lead to antagonistic coevolution between the sexes. In fruit flies, for example, selection for fertilization success has rendered the male ejaculate slightly toxic to females. Here we investigated whether mating imposes a cost upon female fitness in a polyandrous pierid butterfly (Colias eurytheme) by comparing life history traits between once-mated females and virgins. Mated females laid relatively more eggs early in their adult life, but suffered a reduction in longevity relative to virgins held under identical experimental conditions. The effect of mating on female survivorship was statistically independent of lifetime and early life fecundity. Moreover, lifetime fecundity co-varied positively with longevity across all females, and across females within each treatment group, hence there was no phenotypic trade-off between survival and reproduction. These results suggest that the observed longevity difference between virgin and mated females represents a true cost of mating, possibly arising from a toxic side effect of the male ejaculate. However, irrespective of this cost, virgin and mated females laid an equivalent lifetime number of eggs. Female C. eurytheme are also known to use nutrients from the male ejaculate to supplement their reproductive output, hence it is presently unclear how the observed longevity cost may have influenced the evolution of lifetime mating schedules in this polyandrous species.