Energetic cost of sexual attractiveness: Ultrasonic advertisement in wax moths

Klaus Reinhold, Michael D. Greenfield, Yikweon Jang, Alberto Broce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Pair formation in the lesser wax moth, Achroia grisella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), is initiated by male ultrasonic signals that attract receptive females. Individual males vary in attractiveness to females, and the most attractive males are distinguished by exaggeration of three signal characters: pulse rate, peak amplitude and asynchrony interval (temporal separation between pulses generated by movements of the left and right wings during a given wing upstroke or downstroke). Using flow-through respirometry, we measured the resting and signalling metabolic rates of males whose relative attractiveness was known. Acoustic recordings and metabolic measurements were made simultaneously, and we calculated net metabolic rates and factorial metabolic scopes as measures for the energetic cost of signalling. On average, attractive males had higher net metabolic rates and factorial metabolic scopes than unattractive ones, but many unattractive males also had high values. Thus, high expenditure of energy on signalling is necessary but not sufficient for attractiveness. This may result because only one of the three signal characters critical for female preference, pulse rate, is correlated with energy expenditure. Although the results are consistent with the good genes model of sexual selection, they do not conflict with other indirect or direct mechanisms of female choice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)905-913
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1998


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