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The Role of Predators in Maintaining the Geographic Organization of Aposematic Signals

Mathieu Chouteau and Bernard Angers
The American Naturalist
Vol. 178, No. 6 (December 2011), pp. 810-817
DOI: 10.1086/662667
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/662667
Page Count: 8
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The Role of Predators in Maintaining the Geographic Organization of Aposematic Signals
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Abstract

AbstractSelective predation of aposematic signals is expected to promote phenotypic uniformity. But while these signals may be uniform within a population, numerous species display impressive variations in warning signals among adjacent populations. Predators from different localities who learn to avoid distinct signals while performing intense selection on others are thus expected to maintain such a geographic organization. We tested this assumption by placing clay frog models, representing distinct color morphs of the Peruvian poison dart frog Ranitomeya imitator and a nonconspicuous frog, reciprocally between adjacent localities. In each locality, avian predators were able to discriminate between warning signals; the adjacent exotic morph experienced up to four times more attacks than the local one and two times more than the nonconspicuous phenotype. Moreover, predation attempts on the exotic morph quickly decreased to almost nil, suggesting rapid learning. This experiment offers direct evidence for the existence of different predator communities performing localized homogenizing selection on distinct aposematic signals.

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