Population biology of tropical African butterflies. Sex ratio and genetic variation in Acraea encedon



In Uganda the butterfly, Acraea encedon (L.), occurs in well-defined populations that are largely genetically and ecologically isolated from each other. During the course of a large-scale capture-recapture programme about 18,000 different individuals were marked and released, and from these and many recaptures aspects of the population structure were investigated. Some populations are composed of almost all females while in other populations the sex ratio is normal. In the predominantly female populations many females remain unmated and produce infertile eggs, laying them on plants that are not foodplants and on each other. In such populations there is intense aggregating behaviour. Males live longer than females and each male may mate with several different females. There is evidence for the existence of a self-regulating mechanism in the predominantly female populations in which population size and male frequency are reciprocally dependent. Acraea encedon exists in a large variety of sympatric colour forms, the frequency of which varies from population to population. Some colour forms survive better than others. The hindwing of Acraea encedon has 20 black spots each of which can be absent in any particular butterfly. The relative frequency of missing spots varies from population to population. The ecological genetics of Acraea encedon is discussed in relation to theories of mimicry and polymorphism.