Colour patterns in warning displays
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
In aposematism a prey species use bright colours, often combined with a black contrasting pattern, to signal unprofitability as prey to potential predators. Although there are several different hypotheses about the presence of these internally contrasting patterns, there is little experimental evidence of any beneficial effects. In this thesis I have used bird predators and artificial prey signals to investigate if the contrasting internal patterns in warning displays may have evolved to increase signal efficacy, especially regarding the speed of avoidance learning. In paper I the relative importance of colour and pattern in avoidance learning was studied. The conclusion was that birds primarily attend to colour, not pattern, when learning the discrimination, which was further supported by the results in paper II-IV, all suggesting a secondary role of patterns. In paper II I show that predators may to some degree use patterns for discrimination, if they convey important information about prey quality. The predators showed a hierarchical way of learning warning colour components, where colour is learned to a higher degree than pattern. In paper III I investigate if internal contrasting patterns promote avoidance learning by increasing conspicuousness as prey-to-background contrast does. The study did not support this idea, as the presence of internal black patterns did not improve avoidance learning on a colour matching background. In paper IV, however, I show that the presence of many internal colour boundaries resulted in faster avoidance learning on a multi-coloured background, and predator generalization favoured more internal boundaries, while there was no effect of pattern regularity. From these studies I conclude that internal pattern contrasts may function to increase the efficacy of the warning colour, its salience, and as a means for aposematic prey to be discriminated from harmful mimics. However, the major finding is the importance of colour over pattern.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University , 2012. , 44 p.
aposematism, warning colouration, colour patterns, avoidance learning, generalization behaviour, signal design, signal evolution, conspicuousness, mimicry
Behavioral Sciences Biology
Research subject Ethology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-75576ISBN: 978-91-7447-490-9OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-75576DiVA: diva2:517288
2012-05-31, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Rowe, Candy, Ph.D.
Gamberale-Stille, Gabriella, DocentLeimar, Olof, Professor
At the time of the doctoral defence the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript; Paper 4: Manuscript 2012-05-092012-04-232012-05-03Bibliographically approved
List of papers