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Females show greater changes in wing colour with latitude than males in the green-veined white butterfly, Pieris napi (Lepidoptera: Pieridae)


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In butterflies, wing colour may simultaneously be under sexual selection in the context of mating selection and natural selection in the context of thermoregulation. In the present study, we collected mated females of the green-veined white butterfly (Pieris napi) from locations spanning 960 km of latitude across Fennoscandia, and investigated sex-specific latitudinal wing colour variation in their offspring raised under identical conditions. We measured wing colour characteristics, including reflectance at wavelengths 300–700 nm and the degree of wing melanization. At all latitudes, females reflected more light in the short wavelengths (< 400 nm) and less in the long wavelengths (> 450 nm), and they were more melanized than males. However, female wing colour varied more with latitude than that of males. Among females, long wavelength reflectance decreased, whereas short wavelength reflectance and melanization increased, towards the north. By contrast, among males, latitudinal variation was found only in the ventral hindwing melanization. These results are consistent with the idea that the balance between natural and sexual selection acting on wing colour changes with latitude differently in males than females. The dark wing colour of females in the north may be a thermoregulatory adaptation, although males may be constrained from evolving the dark dorsal wing colour favoured by natural selection because of constant sexual selection across latitudes. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, ••, ••–••.