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Biol Lett. 2009 Feb 23;5(1):51-4. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0586.

The role of predator selection on polymorphic aposematic poison frogs.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biology, University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677, USA. bnoonan@olemiss.edu

Abstract

Demonstrations of interactions between diverse selective forces on bright coloration in defended species are rare. Recent work has suggested that not only do the bright colours of Neotropical poison frogs serve to deter predators, but they also play a role in sexual selection, with females preferring males similar to themselves. These studies report an interaction between the selective forces of mate choice and predation. However, evidence demonstrating phenotypic discrimination by potential predators on these polymorphic species is lacking. The possibility remains that visual (avian) predators possess an inherent avoidance of brightly coloured diurnal anurans and purifying selection against novel phenotypes within populations is due solely to non-random mating. Here, we examine the influence of predation on phenotypic variation in a polymorphic species of poison frog, Dendrobates tinctorius. Using clay models, we demonstrate a purifying role for predator selection, as brightly coloured novel forms are more likely to suffer an attack than both local aposematic and cryptic forms. Additionally, local aposematic forms are attacked, though infrequently, indicating ongoing testing/learning and a lack of innate avoidance. These results demonstrate predator-driven phenotypic purification within populations and suggest colour patterns of poison frogs may truly represent a 'magic trait'.

PMID:
19019778
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2657764
Free PMC Article

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