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Abstract

Adult males of the American rubyspot (Hetaerina americana) dispute riverine territories where females arrive to mate. On the wing basis, these males bear a red pigmentation spot whose area correlates with territorial disputes and mating rate: males with larger spots are more successful. This is explained by the fact that spot size correlates with fat muscular reserves which fuel flight during territorial intrusions. To further our understanding of sexual selection acting on the spot, here we have examined possible differences in three spot colour properties (red chroma, hue and brightness) in three distinct adult male ages [young, middle-aged (when males are more likely to defend a territory) and old], social status (territorial and non-territorial in middle-aged males), and under two potentially, energetically and costly situations: when faced with an immune challenge [comparing a nylon-implanted male group vs. a non-implanted male group in two ages, teneral (previous to colour formation) and middle-aged] and low diet levels (comparing a male set of middle-aged animals that received food ad libitum vs. a male set that received no food). Our results indicate no change in colour properties across any of these comparisons. Taken together, these and previous results suggest that only spot size but not the spot characteristics we measured here, is sexually selected in males of this species at least in terms of pre-copulatory male–male competition. That some of these colour properties have been related to male condition in other calopterygid damselflies cannot be generalized to the American rubyspot.