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Once mated, the optimal strategy for females of the monandrous butterfly, Pararge aegeria, is to avoid male contact and devote as much time as possible to ovipositing, as there is little advantage for females to engage in multiple matings. In other butterfly species the presence of males during egg laying has been shown to affect aspects of oviposition behavior and it has been suggested that repeated interference from males has the potential to reduce reproductive output. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of male presence during oviposition on reproductive output and behavior of a population of P. aegeria obtained from Madeira Island, Portugal, and maintained in the laboratory. Two experiments were performed where females were housed individually in small cages. Experiment 1 examined how social factors influenced the egg laying behavior of females. To do this the presence or absence of males was manipulated and egg size and number was measured over the first 14 days of oviposition. It was observed that when males were present during oviposition females made a trade-off between egg size and number. Experiment 2 examined how social factors affected oviposition site choice. Again, male presence/absence was manipulated, but in this experiment where the female laid her egg in relation to host quality was scored, and the size of the egg laid was measured. In the absence of males females selectively positioned their larger eggs on good quality host plants. However, selective oviposition was no longer observed when females were in the presence of males. We suggest that P. aegeria females from the Madeira Island population are adapted for a flexible oviposition strategy, governed by external cues, allowing a trade-off between egg size and number when the time available for egg laying is limiting.
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