Female small copper butterflies have evolved a simple behavior to tell males the equivalent of “stay off.”
Japanese scientist Jun-Ya Ide from the Kurume Institute of Technology in Fukuoka noticed that the female butterflies kept closing their wings when other butterflies flew near them. Dr. Ide says that their wing closing is a way of, in effect, avoiding sexual harassment, as he tells the BBC:
“I also found that she closed the wings at a lower rate when other butterfly species flew nearby,” said Dr Ide. And he set about trying to find out why this might be.
“Persistent mating attempts” from males can harm the delicate females, so Dr Ide thought the females might close their wings as an harassment avoidance strategy.
“He used a model of a male copper butterfly to trigger a reaction in the females.
“When I brought the model close to a mated female, she often closed the wings,” he told BBC Nature.
But, as Dr. Ide observed, virgin females leave their wings open, a signal that they are so to speak “available.”
The female butterflies have evolved a way, it seems, to protect themselves from male butterflies with just a fold of their wings.
Photo by Deanster1983.