Warning coloration can be disruptive: aposematic marginal wing patterning in the wood tiger moth
Honma, A., Mappes, J., & Valkonen, J. (2015). Warning coloration can be disruptive: aposematic marginal wing patterning in the wood tiger moth. Ecology and Evolution, 5 (21), 4863-4874. doi:10.1002/ece3.1736
Published inEcology and Evolution
DisciplineEkologia ja evoluutiobiologia
© 2015 The Authors. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.
Warning (aposematic) and cryptic colorations appear to be mutually incompatible because the primary function of the former is to increase detectability, whereas the function of the latter is to decrease it. Disruptive coloration is a type of crypsis in which the color pattern breaks up the outline of the prey, thus hindering its detection. This delusion can work even when the prey’s pattern elements are highly contrasting; thus, it is possible for an animal’s coloration to combine both warning and disruptive functions. The coloration of the wood tiger moth (Parasemia plantaginis) is such that the moth is conspicuous when it rests on vegetation, but when it feigns death and drops to the grass- and litter-covered ground, it is hard to detect. This death-feigning behavior therefore immediately switches the function of its coloration from signaling to camouflage. We experimentally tested whether the forewing patterning of wood tiger moths could function as disruptive coloration against certain backgrounds. Using actual forewing patterns of wood tiger moths, we crafted artifi- cial paper moths and placed them on a background image resembling a natural litter and grass background. We manipulated the disruptiveness of the wing pattern so that all (marginal pattern) or none (nonmarginal pattern) of the markings extended to the edge of the wing. Paper moths, each with a hidden palatable food item, were offered to great tits (Parus major) in a large aviary where the birds could search for and attack the “moths” according to their detectability. The results showed that prey items with the disruptive marginal pattern were attacked less often than prey without it. However, the disruptive function was apparent only when the prey was brighter than the background. These results suggest that warning coloration and disruptive coloration can work in concert and that the moth, by feigning death, can switch the function of its coloration from warning to disruptive. ...