Circadian patterns of activity are considered ubiquitous and adaptive, and are often invoked as a mechanism for temporal niche partitioning. Yet, comparisons of rhythmic behavior in related animal species are uncommon. This is particularly true of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), in which studies of whole-animal patterns of behavior are far outweighed by examinations of tissue-specific molecular clocks. Here, we used a comparative approach to examine the circadian patterns of flight behavior in Manduca sexta and Hyles lineata, two distantly related species of hawkmoth (Sphingidae). By filming isolated, individual animals we were able to examine rhythmic locomotor (flight) activity at the species level as well as at the level of the individual sexes, and in the absence of interference from social interaction. Our results confirm classic descriptions of strictly nocturnal behavior in M. sexta and demonstrate a dramatically different activity pattern in H. lineata. Furthermore, we show distinct species and sex-specific differences in the maintenance of the endogenous rhythm under conditions of constant darkness. In both species, female activity peaks in advance of males, whereas male activity coincides with periods of female sexual receptivity. This suggests a role for circadian patterns of locomotor activity in synchronizing periods of sexual receptivity between the sexes.
- Received May 31, 2016.
- Accepted January 30, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd