A1 Journal article (refereed)
Out in the open : behavior’s effect on predation risk and thermoregulation by aposematic caterpillars (2020)

Nielsen, M. E., & Mappes, J. (2020). Out in the open : behavior’s effect on predation risk and thermoregulation by aposematic caterpillars. Behavioral Ecology, 31(4), 1031-1039. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/araa048

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Nielsen, Matthew E.; Mappes, Johanna

Journal or series: Behavioral Ecology

ISSN: 1045-2249

eISSN: 1465-7279

Publication year: 2020

Volume: 31

Issue number: 4

Pages range: 1031-1039

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Publication country: United States

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/araa048

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Partially open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/69783


Warning coloration should be under strong stabilizing selection but often displays considerable intraspecific variation. Opposing selection on color by predators and temperature is one potential explanation for this seeming paradox. Despite the importance of behavior for both predator avoidance and thermoregulation, its role in mediating selection by predators and temperature on warning coloration has received little attention. Wood tiger moth caterpillars, Arctia plantaginis, have aposematic coloration, an orange patch on the black body. The size of the orange patch varies considerably: individuals with larger patches are safer from predators, but having a small patch is beneficial in cool environments. We investigated microhabitat preference by these caterpillars and how it interacted with their coloration. We expected caterpillar behavior to reflect a balance between spending time exposed to maximize basking and spending time concealed to avoid detection by predators. Instead, we found that caterpillars preferred exposed locations regardless of their coloration. Whether caterpillars were exposed or concealed had a strong effect on both temperature and predation risk, but caterpillars in exposed locations were both much warmer and less likely to be attacked by a bird predator (great tits, Parus major). This shared optimum may explain why we observed so little variation in caterpillar behavior and demonstrates the important effects of behavior on multiple functions of coloration.

Keywords: warning coloration; animal behaviour; temperature regulation; predation; wood tiger; great tit

Free keywords: aposematism; Arctia plantaginis; color; microhabitat preference; Parus major; thermoregulation

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2020

JUFO rating: 2

Last updated on 2022-20-09 at 14:31