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Evolution. 2008 Sep;62(9):2334-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2008.00454.x. Epub 2008 Jul 4.

Female preferences for aposematic signal components in a polymorphic poison frog.

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  • 1University of Texas at Austin, Integrative Biology, 1 University Station C0930, Austin Texas 78712, USA.


Aposematic signals may be subject to conflicting selective pressures from predators and conspecifics. We studied female preferences for different components of aposematic coloration in the polymorphic poison frog Oophaga pumilio across several phenotypically distinct populations. This frog shows striking diversity in color and pattern between geographically isolated populations in western Panama. Results indicate that male dorsal color is the most important determiner of female preferences. We did not find consistent evidence for effects of other signal components, such as spotting pattern or ventral color. Females in two populations showed assortative preferences mediated by male dorsal coloration. In a third population we found incomplete color-assortative preference behavior, with females exhibiting strong discrimination toward one novel color but not another. These results hint at a possible interaction between sexual and natural selection: female tolerance of unfamiliar coloration patterns could facilitate the establishment of novel phenotypes that are favored by other selective pressures (e.g., predator biases). Furthermore, our study suggests that specific components of the aposematic signal (i.e., dorsal color, ventral color, and spotting pattern) are affected differently by natural and sexual selection.

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