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Evolution. 2014 Dec;68(12):3410-20. doi: 10.1111/evo.12524. Epub 2014 Oct 14.

Warning signals are seductive: relative contributions of color and pattern to predator avoidance and mate attraction in Heliconius butterflies.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine, California, 92697; Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama City, 0843-03092, Panama.


Visual signaling in animals can serve many uses, including predator deterrence and mate attraction. In many cases, signals used to advertise unprofitability to predators are also used for intraspecific communication. Although aposematism and mate choice are significant forces driving the evolution of many animal phenotypes, the interplay between relevant visual signals remains little explored. Here, we address this question in the aposematic passion-vine butterfly Heliconius erato by using color- and pattern-manipulated models to test the contributions of different visual features to both mate choice and warning coloration. We found that the relative effectiveness of a model at escaping predation was correlated with its effectiveness at inducing mating behavior, and in both cases wing color was more predictive of presumptive fitness benefits than wing pattern. Overall, however, a combination of the natural (local) color and pattern was most successful for both predator deterrence and mate attraction. By exploring the relative contributions of color versus pattern composition in predation and mate preference studies, we have shown how both natural and sexual selection may work in parallel to drive the evolution of specific animal color patterns.


Aposematism; color pattern; mate recognition; predation; visual signals

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