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The Development of Flight Capacity in a Butterfly

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Experiments have been made to determine and explain a possible increase in flight capacity of a butterfly during the first days after emergence. The height of phototropic flight reaction of males and females of Pieris napi of different age after emergence under constant and controlled experimental conditions has been tested. In one series (the T-series) the animals were trained 20 times each day after the main test (4 times at 20 min. interval). Here as in all other tests marked increase was obtained from day to day (fig. 2). This increase in height of flight is combined with a greater starting angle, a more rapid enhancement of the flight course, and with an inhibition of the reaction to alight (fig. 3). It is still going on after the third day. The 20 training flights did significantly but very slightly improve only the records from the first to the second day. Individuals tested for the first time on the fifth day fly as high as the training series in the first (males) or third (females) flight (fig. 4). A habit of more persistent flight develops during the first days after emergence. Exhaustion of an old male, prevented from flying, only slightly decreases its flight response on the next day. The behaviour during and after emergence is studied. The rate of hardening of the wing cuticula (fig. 7) is rather similar to that of the increase of flight capacity. This rate is dependent on temperature. Stiffness of the wings is correlated at least in females with flight capacity (fig. 8). Hardening of the cuticula is probably the only factor increasing flight capacity during the first days after emergence. The fundamental motor patterns are present already in the emerging butterfly. Neither maturation nor practice is of any greater importance for flight capacity. Maturation may be involved in the development of a more persistent flight.

Affiliations: 1: (Zoological Institute, University of Uppsala; Uppsala, Sweden


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