Correlated evolution of mate signals and mate preference may be constrained if selection pressures acting on mate preference differ from those acting on mate signals. In particular, opposing selection pressures may act on mate preference and signals when traits have sexual as well as nonsexual functions. In the butterfly Colias philodice eriphyle, divergent selection on wing color across an elevational gradient in response to the thermal environment has led to increasing wing melanization at higher elevations. Wing color is also a long-range signal used by males in mate searching. We conducted experiments to test whether sexual selection on wing melanization via male mate choice acts in the same direction as natural selection on mate signals due to the thermal environment. We performed controlled mate choice experiments in the field over an elevational range of 1500 meters using decoy butterflies with different melanization levels. Also, we obtained a more direct estimate of the relation between wing color and sexual selection by measuring mating success in wild-caught females. Both our experiments showed that wing melanization is an important determinant of female mating success in C. p. eriphyle. However, a lack of elevational variation in male mate preference prevents coevolution of mate signals and mate preference, as males at all elevations prefer less-melanized females. We suggest that this apparently maladaptive mate choice may be maintained by differences in detectability between the morphs or by preservation of species recognition.
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Vol. 57 • No. 5