Aposematic coloration, luminance contrast, and the benefits of conspicuousness

Kathleen L. Prudic, Ana K. Skemp, Daniel R Papaj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

85 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Many organisms use warning, or aposematic, coloration to signal their unprofitability to potential predators. Aposematically colored prey are highly visually conspicuous. There is considerable empirical support that conspicuousness promotes the effectiveness of the aposematic signal. From these experiments, it is well documented that conspicuous, unprofitable prey are detected sooner and aversion learned faster by the predator as compared with cryptic, unprofitable prey. Predators also retain memory of the aversion longer when prey is conspicuous. The present study focused on the elements of conspicuousness that confer these benefits of aposematic coloration. Drawing on current understanding of animal vision, we distinguish 2 features of warning coloration: high chromatic contrast and high brightness, or luminance, contrast. Previous investigations on aposematic signal efficacy have focused mainly on the role of high chromatic contrast between prey and background, whereas little research has investigated the role of high luminance contrast. Using the Chinese mantid as a model predator and gray-painted milkweed bugs as model prey, we found that increased prey luminance contrast increased detection of prey, facilitated predator aversion learning, and increased predator memory retention of the aversive response. Our results suggest that the luminance contrast component of aposematic coloration can be an effective warning signal between the prey and predator. Thus, warning coloration can even evolve as an effective signal to color blind predators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-46
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2007

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Color
predator
predators
color
Mantodea
Learning
Tenodera sinensis
Oncopeltus fasciatus
Research
learning
animal
organisms
animals
Retention (Psychology)
experiment

Keywords

  • Insect vision
  • Mantid
  • Predation
  • Tenodera aridifolia sinensis
  • Warning display

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Cite this

Aposematic coloration, luminance contrast, and the benefits of conspicuousness. / Prudic, Kathleen L.; Skemp, Ana K.; Papaj, Daniel R.

In: Behavioral Ecology, Vol. 18, No. 1, 01.2007, p. 41-46.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Prudic, Kathleen L. ; Skemp, Ana K. ; Papaj, Daniel R. / Aposematic coloration, luminance contrast, and the benefits of conspicuousness. In: Behavioral Ecology. 2007 ; Vol. 18, No. 1. pp. 41-46.
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