Ultraviolet wing signal affects territorial contest outcome in a sexually dimorphic damselfly

Mingzi Xu, Ola M. Fincke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Ultraviolet (UV) reflectance and UV vision are both common among animals and are known to function in mate choice and male-male competition among numerous vertebrates. In comparison, examples of functional UV reflectance among invertebrates are scarce. In a territorial damselfly (. Megaloprepus caerulatus), data from natural territorial contests indicated that males assessed the male wing band of rivals. We investigated the functions of (1) UV reflectance of the male-specific white wing band in territorial contests by staging contests between size- and age-matched, control and UV-reduced males, and (2) UV reflectance of the female-specific wing tip in sex recognition by presenting control and UV-reduced females to territorial males. Results showed that males whose UV reflectance of the white wing bands was reduced were more likely to lose contests. This effect dissipated late in the reproductive season, when breeding sites typically decrease in value. UV reflectance of the female wing tips did not affect male sex recognition, nor did it affect the detectability of a female at a male territory. Our study provides the first direct evidence from invertebrates, and one of the few among all animals, that UV reflectance of wing ornamentation affects the outcome of male contests in the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-74
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a Smithsonian Institution Short-term Fellowship and a Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Fellowship to M. Xu, and National Science Foundation grant IBN-9408143 to O. M. Fincke. We are grateful to J. McFarland and K. Montague for field assistance and the Center for Tropical Forest Science for access to the 50 ha plot on BCI. We thank the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute for logistic support, W. Wcislo, J. Christy and E. Leigh for helpful comments on the experimental design, T. D. Schultz for help with spectrometry and R. Knapp, T. D. Schultz and two anonymous referees for helpful comments that improved the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.


  • Megaloprepus
  • Rival assessment
  • Seasonal effect
  • Sex recognition
  • Sexual signalling
  • UV reflectance


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