Chemically mediated species recognition in two sympatric Grayling butterflies: Hipparchia fagi and Hipparchia hermione (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae, Satyrinae)

Pheromones are known to play an important role in butterfly courtship and may influence both individual reproductive success and reproductive isolation between species. Recent studies have focused on courtship in Hipparchia butterflies (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae) emphasizing morphological and behavioural traits, as well as genetic differences. Behavioural observations suggested a role for chemical cues in mate and species recognition, where the androconial scales on the forewings of these species may be involved in chemical communication between individuals. Cchemical-mediated signals have received relatively little attention in this genus. Here, we report the results of a three-year investigation of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by Hipparchia fagi and H. hermione in order to identify differences in VOCs between these species where they live in syntopy. Our study was carried out using an array of cross-selective sensors known as an "Electronic Nose" (EN) that operates by converting chemical patterns into patterns of sensor signals. While the identity of volatile compounds remained unknown, sensor signals can be compared to identify similar or dissimilar chemical patterns. Based on the EN signals, our results showed that: 1) the two sexes have a similar VOCs pattern in H. fagi, while they significantly diverge in H. hermione; 2) VOCs patterns were different between females of the two species, while those of males were not.