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International Journal of Evolutionary Biology
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 926702, 6 pages
Research Article

A Survey of Eyespot Sexual Dimorphism across Nymphalid Butterflies

1Yale College, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
2Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
3Department of Zoology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
4Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS College, Singapore 117543

Received 30 July 2013; Accepted 22 October 2013

Academic Editor: Amitabh Joshi

Copyright © 2013 Christopher K. Tokita et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Differences between sexes of the same species are widespread and are variable in nature. While it is often assumed that males are more ornamented than females, in the nymphalid butterfly genus Bicyclus, females have, on average, more eyespot wing color patterns than males. Here we extend these studies by surveying eyespot pattern sexual dimorphism across the Nymphalidae family of butterflies. Eyespot presence or absence was scored from a total of 38 wing compartments for two males and two females of each of 450 nymphalid species belonging to 399 different genera. Differences in eyespot number between sexes of each species were tallied for each wing surface (e.g., dorsal and ventral) of forewings and hindwings. In roughly 44% of the species with eyespots, females had more eyespots than males, in 34%, males had more eyespots than females, and, in the remaining 22% of the species, there was monomorphism in eyespot number. Dorsal and forewing surfaces were less patterned, but proportionally more dimorphic, than ventral and hindwing surfaces, respectively. In addition, wing compartments that frequently displayed eyespots were among the least sexually dimorphic. This survey suggests that dimorphism arises predominantly in “hidden” or “private” surfaces of a butterfly’s wing, as previously demonstrated for the genus Bicyclus.