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Butterfly Avoids Sexual Harassment By Closing Wings

June 1, 2011

A Japanese researcher says that one kind of female butterfly mates only once in its life, and then closes its wings to avoid “harassment” when pursued by persistent and unwanted males.

Jun-Ya Ide, an associate professor at Kurume Institute of Technology in Fukuoka, western Japan said observations of the Small Copper Butterfly, a colorful orange and black butterfly, showed that some females closed their wings when males flew by, but only males of their own species.

“When we looked into why, the males were courting the females. They do this very stubbornly, so the females sometimes try to get away — or prefer to stay unobserved,” he said in a statement.

The researchers brought a model of a male butterfly near the females to test their reactions and found that young females that had yet to mate kept their wings open, but those that have already mated closed them.

He said not only can the persistent attentions of unwanted suitors harm the females, but fleeing from them uses up strength and can even shorten their lives.

“Closing their wings makes them less visible, helping them avoid communication with their own species. We figured they were trying to avoid sexual harassment by males,” Ide said.

The scientists reported their findings in the journal Ethology.

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