All-female broods and mimetic polymorphism in Acraea encedon (L.) (Lepidoptera: Acraeidae) in Tanzania



In some populations of the African butterfly, Acraea encedon, there are two kinds of females, one producing offspring in a normal 1:1 sex ratio, the other producing females only; in other populations the sex ratio is apparently normal. All-female broods had hitherto been mainly associated with populations in which field sampling revealed an excess of females. The all-female brood trait is described from a population at Dar es Salaam which field sampling suggested was normal, and this indicates that the trait may be much more widespread and common than had previously been supposed. This discovery also extends the known distribution of the trait across Africa from Sierra Leone to eastern Tanzania. The butterfly is also a polymorphic Müllerian mimic of Danaus chrysippus, which is a highly unusual phenomenon as Müllerian mimicry is almost invariably monomorphic. The relative frequencies of two corresponding colour forms of the two species of butterflies at Dar es Salaam adds support to the hypothesis that they are indeed Mullerian mimics. The results of breeding experiments suggest that the polymorphic forms in Acraea encedon are allelic with dominance.