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Male butterflies mark their mates with a stench to 'turn off' rival suitors

By Chris Jiggins, Professor of Evolutionary Biology, University of Cambridge
Kathleen Darragh, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of California, Davis
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Smells, scents and stenches are a common feature in the messy world of sex. In animals, aromas such as pheromones are often used to attract and charm potential mates. But some male butterflies use sex smells for another purpose entirely: to deposit a stench on their coital partner so foul that other potential suitors will give her a wide berth.

This jealous behaviour from one of nature’s most beloved insects is not without precedent. A previous study found that some male butterflies effectively…

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