Structural coloration predicts the outcome of male contests in the Amazonian damselfly Chalcopteryx scintillans (Odonata: Polythoridae)

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Iridescence is an optical effect that produces angle dependent coloration in animals. Recently, studies have attempted to unveil structures behind such elaborated visual signals and associated behaviors in Odonata. Here, we studied males of the Amazonian damselfly Chalcopteryx scintillans, which have hindwings that exhibit pronounced iridescence. This optical feature is used by the damselflies for intra-specific communication during territorial fights and courtship. The main question we addressed was whether male wing structural coloration may predict the outcome of male-male contests. We also studied the wing ultrastructure, in order to reveal the mechanisms that are responsible for wing coloration. Using various microscopal and spectroscopal techniques, we demonstrate that hindwing coloration is derived from two main effects: (1) light interference in the cuticle multilayer and (2) a specific angle dependent light scattering and antireflective properties of the epicuticular wax coverage. The results of our field experiment show that wing pigmentation and the hue of the dorsal surface of the hindwings is correlated with the outcome of territorial contests. This is one of the first studies showing that structural coloration derived from multilayer interference may influence the outcome of intrasexual agonistic interactions. This indicates that multicomponent structural coloration in visually guided insects may be under selective forces of male-male competition for resources and females.




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Arthropod Structure and Development, v. 53.

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