Quantitative genetics of ultrasonic advertisement signalling in the lesser waxmoth Achroia grisella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae)

Robert D. Collins, Yikweon Jang, Klaus Reinhold, Michael D. Greenfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Males of the lesser waxmoth Achroia grisella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) produce ultrasonic advertisement signals attractive to females within several metres. Previous studies showed that females prefer male signals that are louder, delivered at a faster rate, and have a greater asynchrony between pulses produced by the right and left wings. These three signal characters vary-considerably within populations but are repeatable within individuals. Breeding experiments employing half-sib designs were conducted on both collectively and individually reared moths to determine genetic variance within and covariance among these signal characters. Heritabilities of all signal characters were significant among collectively reared moths. Heritabilities for signal rate and right-left wing asynchrony interval were not significant, however, among individually reared moths, suggesting the presence of significant nonadditive genetic variance or common environmental variation. Development time was also significantly heritable, but only under individual rearing. The only significant genetic correlation was between signal rate and length of the right-left wing asynchrony and this was negative. Our findings on heritability of signal characters are consistent with a coevolutionary sexual selection mechanism, but the absence of signal x development genetic correlation fails to support specifically a good-genes mechanism. The variation in heritability among conditions suggests that environmental variance may be high, and may render selection on signal characters by female choice ineffective. Thus, additive genetic variance for these characters may be maintained in the presence of directional female choice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)644-651
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by U.S. National Science Foundation grants IBN-9407162 and IBN-9696138 to M.D.G. and R.D.C., and by DFG (Germany) grant no. RE 1167/1–2 to K.R. We are grateful to Ric Roggero of the University of Kansas Instrumentation Design Laboratory and Martin Cremer for developing the signal processing software used in this study, and to W. Andrew Snedden and several anonymous reviewers for critical review of this manuscript.


  • Additive genetic variance
  • Female choice
  • Genetic correlation
  • Good genes model
  • Heritability
  • Sexual selection


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