Signal categorization by foraging animals depends on ecological diversity

David William Kikuchi, Anna Dornhaus, Vandana Gopeechund, Thomas N. Sherratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Warning signals displayed by defended prey are mimicked by both mutualistic (Müllerian) and parasitic (Batesian) species. Yet mimicry is often imperfect: why does selection not improve mimicry? Predators create selection on warning signals, so predator psychology is crucial to understanding mimicry. We conducted experiments where humans acted as predators in a virtual ecosystem to ask how prey diversity affects the way that predators categorize prey phenotypes as profitable or unprofitable. The phenotypic diversity of prey communities strongly affected predator categorization. Higher diversity increased the likelihood that predators would use a 'key' trait to form broad categories, even if it meant committing errors. Broad categorization favors the evolution of mimicry. Both species richness and evenness contributed significantly to this effect. This lets us view the behavioral and evolutionary processes leading to mimicry in light of classical community ecology. Broad categorization by receivers is also likely to affect other forms of signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournaleLife
Volume8
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 25 2019

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Ecology
Ecosystems
Ecosystem
Animals
Psychology
Phenotype
Experiments

Keywords

  • animal communication
  • community ecology
  • ecology
  • evolutionary biology
  • human
  • receiver psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)

Cite this

Signal categorization by foraging animals depends on ecological diversity. / Kikuchi, David William; Dornhaus, Anna; Gopeechund, Vandana; Sherratt, Thomas N.

In: eLife, Vol. 8, 25.04.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Kikuchi, David William ; Dornhaus, Anna ; Gopeechund, Vandana ; Sherratt, Thomas N. / Signal categorization by foraging animals depends on ecological diversity. In: eLife. 2019 ; Vol. 8.
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