Show your true colour: cues for male mate preference in an intra-specific mimicry system


Arne Iserbyt, Evolutionary Ecology Group, Antwerp University, Groenenborgerlaan 171, Antwerp, B-2020 Belgium. E-mail:


1. Polymorphism limited to the female sex occurs in a variety of animal species and has been shown to be an attractive model system for examining general questions in signal detection theory.

2. When observed in damselflies, typically one female morph is an example of sexual dimorphism, whereas the other is considered as a functional malemimic that resembles the male's phenotype in several traits.

3. While several studies focused on male harassment and subsequent cost/benefit trade-offs in female morphs, it remains understudied at the proximate level, which precise cues are relevant to mate-searching males for discriminating among potential mates.

4. In the present study, we scored male mate preference to natural and manipulated phenotypes in the polymorphic damselfly Nehalennia irene Hagen.

5. In contrast to expectation, male preference did not change when colour was manipulated and male preference remained consistently for andromorph > male > gynomorph across treatments.

6. This suggests that cues other than body coloration primarily affect male mate preference in the present study system.