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Am Nat. 2004 Apr;163(4):532-47. Epub 2004 Apr 19.

Predator mixes and the conspicuousness of aposematic signals.

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Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA.


Conspicuous warning signals of unprofitable prey are a defense against visually hunting predators. They work because predators learn to associate unprofitability with bright coloration and because strong signals are detectable and memorable. However, many species that can be considered defended are not very conspicuous; they have weak warning signals. This phenomenon has previously been ignored in models and experiments. In addition, there is significant within- and among-species variation among predators in their search behavior, in their visual, cognitive, and learning abilities, and in their resistance to defenses. In this article we explore the effects of variable predators on models that combine positive frequency-dependent, frequency-independent, and negative frequency-dependent predation and show that weak signaling of aposematic species can evolve if predators vary in their tendency to attack defended prey.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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