Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Entomology
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2003
Publication Date: 6/1/2004
Citation: Sivinski, J.M., Wing, S.R. 2004. Visual mating signals. In: Capinera, J.L., editor. Encyclopedia of Entomology, Vol. 3. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 2470-2481.
Interpretive Summary: N/A
Technical Abstract: Arthropods communicate through a variety of channels including the visual. There are a number of insect visual sexual displays despite the small signaling surface of the insect body and the poor resolution capacity of the compound eye. Some displays have evolved through intrasexual selection to mediate aggressive interactions between males and others through intersexual selection to advertise qualities to the opposite sex. In the later case, displays may convey several types of information including: 1) promises of material transfer such as nuptial gifts; 2) advertisements of genetic quality that would improve offspring fitness; and 3) false-information that manipulate the receiver's perceptions. Because female insects may be able to decide on the parentage of their offspring through the preferential use of stored sperm, males may continue visual courtships during and even after mating. Visual displays are more likely to occur in ground-based mating systems than those which occur in the air. Part of the reason may be the difficulty of keeping track of flying signal-emitters and judging the quality of their displays. Visual signals (ornaments) are often located on movable parts of the body, presumably to call greater attention to colors and forms, and are not evenly distributed among insect taxa. The higher flies, odonates and luminous beetles have a disproportionate number of visual mating signals.