Eur. J. Entomol. 105 (1): 87-91, 2008 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2008.012

Flight muscle breakdown in the green-veined white butterfly, Pieris napi (Lepidoptera: Pieridae)

Fredrik STJERNHOLM, Bengt KARLSSON*
Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Flight is important for insects but also incurs costs in terms of reduced reproductive reserves. Recent studies on butterflies have shown that thorax mass and nitrogen content decrease over the adult lifespan, suggesting that flight muscle breakdown may also occur in butterflies. However, unlike other insects known to resorb flight muscles, butterflies will continue to fly throughout the reproductive period. Nonetheless, use of nutrients from flight muscles for reproduction has the potential to improve the reproductive output considerably. In this study we have tested to what extent female Pieris napi L. (Pieridae) butterflies actually do breakdown flight muscles. By comparing muscle mass in recently emerged and older free-flying females we show that mass and nitrogen content of the two most important groups of flight muscles each decrease by more than 50% over the adult lifespan. The significance of this finding is discussed in relation to reproduction and flight in butterflies.

Keywords: Pieridae, Pieris napi, flight performance, life history, reproduction

Received: October 22, 2007; Accepted: December 4, 2007; Published: February 15, 2008

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