Sexual and seasonal differences in the frequency of beak marks on the wings of twoLethebutterflies

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Abstract

To assess bird predation pressure on butterflies, I investigated beak marks on the wings of two Lethe butterflies for 3 years in secondary temperate forests. If bird predation had significant effects on average longevity of butterflies, and if the number of specimens preyed upon was proportionate to the number of beak-marked specimens, the beak mark frequency would be negatively correlated with average longevity of a butterfly. Bird predation pressure is generally thought to influence average longevity of butterflies. Therefore, if there is a negative correlation between beak mark frequency and average longevity, bird predation pressure would be reflected in beak mark frequency. Beak mark frequency was negatively correlated with longevity in Lethe diana (Butler), the more abundant of the two species; thus, the beak mark frequency was considered to be a suitable index of bird predation pressure on the butterflies investigated in this study. In both Lethe species, beak mark frequency was higher in females than in males. Because female butterflies have a relatively smaller thorax and flight muscles and a larger abdomen that contains eggs, they are presumably weaker or less agile fliers than males, and are probably attacked more easily by birds. In autumn, butterflies were heavily attacked by birds irrespective of sex and species. Because the numbers of lepidopteran larvae, which are the preferred prey of many birds, decreased in autumn, birds were thought to shift their diets to alternative prey such as adult butterflies.

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