Hard to catch : experimental evidence supports evasive mimicry

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Paez , E , Valkonen , J K , Willmott , K R , Matos-Maravi , P , Elias , M & Mappes , J 2021 , ' Hard to catch : experimental evidence supports evasive mimicry ' , Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Biological Sciences , vol. 288 , no. 1946 , 20203052 . https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.3052

Title: Hard to catch : experimental evidence supports evasive mimicry
Author: Paez, Erika; Valkonen, Janne K.; Willmott, Keith R.; Matos-Maravi, Pavel; Elias, Marianne; Mappes, Johanna
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme
Date: 2021-03-10
Language: eng
Number of pages: 10
Belongs to series: Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Biological Sciences
ISSN: 0962-8452
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/334495
Abstract: Most research on aposematism has focused on chemically defended prey, but the signalling difficulty of capture remains poorly explored. Similar to classical Batesian and Mullerian mimicry related to distastefulness, such 'evasive aposematism' may also lead to convergence in warning colours, known as evasive mimicry. A prime candidate group for evasive mimicry are Adelpha butterflies, which are agile insects and show remarkable colour pattern convergence. We tested the ability of naive blue tits to learn to avoid and generalize Adelpha wing patterns associated with the difficulty of capture and compared their response to that of birds that learned to associate the same wing patterns with distastefulness. Birds learned to avoid all wing patterns tested and generalized their aversion to other prey to some extent, but learning was faster with evasive prey compared to distasteful prey. Our results on generalization agree with longstanding observations of striking convergence in wing colour patterns among Adelpha species, since, in our experiments, perfect mimics of evasive and distasteful models were always protected during generalization and suffered the lowest attack rate. Moreover, generalization on evasive prey was broader compared to that on distasteful prey. Our results suggest that being hard to catch may deter predators at least as effectively as distastefulness. This study provides empirical evidence for evasive mimicry, a potentially widespread but poorly understood form of morphological convergence driven by predator selection.
Subject: Adelpha
evasive aposematism
predator learning
prey defence
1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology

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