Aposematism

As an outgrowth of research on the role that chemical defenses play in defending poison frog tadpoles from predators, I have supervised a couple of student field projects exploring how prey coloration influences predator-prey interactions.

First, with Deniz Ozel (University of Miami), we found that aposematic animals – those that display warning coloration to indicate unpalatability – allow a (human) predator to approach much more closely than cryptic animals. But, it might not be all about color because that holds true only in the case of calling territorial males, as aposematic females show the same escape behavior as cryptic frogs (PDF).

anole

Second, with Ethan Baruch (Duke University) and Morgan Manger (Georgetown University), we used clay models of prey to show that an anole lizards prefer to catch “insects” with cryptic coloration over those with aposematic coloration. This is the first study to show that lizards prefer non-aposematically colored prey based solely on coloration, as previous studies have used real prey which differ in other confounding characteristics besides color such as shape and movement.