Some camouflaged animals hide colour signals and display them only transiently. These hidden colour signals are often conspicuous and are used as a secondary defence to warn or startle predators (deimatic displays) and/or to confuse them (flash displays). The hidden signals used in these displays frequently resemble typical aposematic signals, so it is possible that prey with hidden signals have evolved to employ colour patterns of a form that predators have previously learned to associate with unprofitability. Here, we tested this hypothesis by conducting two experiments that examined the effect of predator avoidance learning on the efficacy of deimatic and flash displays. We found that the survival benefits of both deimatic and flash displays were substantially higher against predators that had previously learned to associate the hidden colours with unprofitability than against naive predators. These findings help explain the phenological patterns we found in 1568 macro-lepidopteran species on three continents: species with hidden signals tend to occur later in the season than species without hidden signals.

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Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Department of Biology

Kim, Y. (Yongsu), Hwang, Y. (Yerin), Bae, S. (Sangryong), Sherratt, T, An, J. (Jeongseop), Choi, S.-W. (Sei-Woong), … Kang, C. (Changku). (2020). Prey with hidden colour defences benefit from their similarity to aposematic signals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287(1934). doi:10.1098/rspb.2020.1894