Domestic chicks primarily attend to colour, not pattern, when learning an aposematic coloration
2008 (English)In: Animal Behaviour, ISSN 0003-3472, E-ISSN 1095-8282, Vol. 75, 417-423 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Aposematic conspicuous coloration consists of one or a few bright colours, often in combination with a black defined internal pattern. The function of conspicuousness in aposematism has been ascribed to signal efficacy, based on experimental evidence involving prey items with uniform colour that contrast with the background. Although there are several hypotheses about the existence of internal contrasts within warning coloration, little experimental evidence has been presented. Here we used domestic chicks, Gallus gallus domesticus, to investigate the relative importance of colour and pattern in avoidance learning. Birds in two groups were first trained to discriminate between a grey positive stimulus and a cyan negative stimulus with either black dots or stripes. Pieces of mealworms, untreated and palatable or made unpalatable by soaking in quinine were used as reinforcers. Secondly, to determine what birds had attended to when learning the discrimination, colour and/or pattern, we compared how they generalized their avoidance of the ‘training stimulus’ to either a ‘colour only’ or ‘pattern only’ stimulus. The chicks learned to avoid the unpalatable prey items but showed no difference in behaviour depending on the type of pattern presented. The generalization test showed that birds avoided the novel ‘colour only’ stimulus at least as much as the ‘training stimulus’, and did not generalize their avoidance to the ‘pattern only’ stimulus. We conclude that birds do not necessarily attend to complex patterns when learning a warning signal, and domestic chicks primarily learn a bright colour rather than an equally novel conspicuous black pattern.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 75, 417-423 p.
colour patterns; domestic chick; Gallus gallus domesticus; generalization behaviour; internal pattern contrast; signal design; signal evolution
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-13269DOI: doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.05.006ISI: 000253632100011OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-13269DiVA: diva2:179789