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Lookup NU author(s): Dr John Skelhorn
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Defended insects often advertise their unprofitability to potential predators using conspicuous aposematic coloration. Many aposematic insects are also gregarious, and it has been suggested that the aggregation of defended prey may have facilitated the evolution of aposematic coloration. Empirical studies have demonstrated that birds are more wary of aggregated aposematic prey, and learn to avoid them more quickly than solitary prey. However, many aposematic insects survive being attacked by birds, and the effect of aggregation on post-attack survival has not previously been investigated. Using domestic chicks as predators and artificially manipulated mealworms as prey, we provide empirical evidence that predators attack aggregated aposematic prey more forcefully than solitary prey, reducing the likelihood of prey surviving an attack. Hence, we suggest that previous works concluding that aggregation was an important pre-requisite for the evolution of aposematism may have overestimated the fitness benefits of aggregation, since aggregated prey may be attacked less but are also less likely to survive an attack. © 2006 The Royal Society.
Author(s): Skelhorn J, Ruxton GD
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Biology Letters
Print publication date: 22/12/2006
ISSN (print): 1744-9561
ISSN (electronic): 1744-957X
Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing
PubMed id: 17148269
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