Assortative mating in two pheromone strains of the cabbage looper moth, Trichoplusia ni

Junwei Zhu, Bonnie B. Chastain, Bryan G. Spohn, Kenneth F. Haynes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The evolution of animal communication systems is an integral part of speciation. In moths, species specificity of the communication channel is largely a result of unique sex pheromone blends produced by females and corresponding specificity of male behavioral response. Insights into the process of speciation may result from studies of pheromone strains within a species in which reproductive isolation is not complete. Toward this end we investigated assortative mating based on female pheromone phenotypes and male response specificity between mutant and normal colonies of the cabbage looper moth, Trichoplusia ni. There was no evidence of assortative mating in small cages in which the density of moths was high. In larger cages with lower densities of moths, assortative mating was evident. In these larger cages, matings between normal males and normal females and mutant males and mutant females were more frequent than interstrain matings. Wind tunnel tests indicated that normal males responded preferentially to pheromone released by normal females, whereas mutant males did not discriminate between normal and mutant pheromone blends. In large field cages, pheromone traps baited with normal females caught equal numbers of mutant and normal males, while pheromone traps baited with mutant females caught primarily mutant males. The overall pattern of assortative mating could be explained primarily based on the normal males' preference for the pheromone blend released by normal females.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-817
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank J. Jackson, M. Leslie, S. Mayes, and S. Rose for rearing the insects used in this study. Drs. Grayson Brown and Randy Hunt reviewed an early draft of this paper. This research was supported by the Cooperative State Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 94-37302-0613. We acknowledge the support of the Universityof Kentucky's major equipment program (Nos. 7E-8164-11 and 92-MREC-8). This investigation (paper No. 96-08-229) was conducted in connection with a project of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.


  • Assortative mating
  • Cabbage looper moth
  • Female pheromone
  • Trichoplusia ni
  • Wind tunnel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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