A2 Review article, Literature review, Systematic review
Why aren't warning signals everywhere? : On the prevalence of aposematism and mimicry in communities (2021)

Kikuchi, D. W., Herberstein, M. E., Barfield, M., Holt, R. D., & Mappes, J. (2021). Why aren't warning signals everywhere? : On the prevalence of aposematism and mimicry in communities. Biological Reviews, 96(6), 2446-2460. https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12760

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Kikuchi, David W.; Herberstein, Marie E.; Barfield, Michael; Holt, Robert D.; Mappes, Johanna

Journal or series: Biological Reviews

ISSN: 1464-7931

eISSN: 1469-185X

Publication year: 2021

Volume: 96

Issue number: 6

Pages range: 2446-2460

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12760

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Partially open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/76919


Warning signals are a striking example of natural selection present in almost every ecological community – from Nordic meadows to tropical rainforests, defended prey species and their mimics ward off potential predators before they attack. Yet despite the wide distribution of warning signals, they are relatively scarce as a proportion of the total prey available, and more so in some biomes than others. Classically, warning signals are thought to be governed by positive density-dependent selection, i.e. they succeed better when they are more common. Therefore, after surmounting this initial barrier to their evolution, it is puzzling that they remain uncommon on the scale of the community. Here, we explore factors likely to determine the prevalence of warning signals in prey assemblages. These factors include the nature of prey defences and any constraints upon them, the behavioural interactions of predators with different prey defences, the numerical responses of predators governed by movement and reproduction, the diversity and abundance of undefended alternative prey and Batesian mimics in the community, and variability in other ecological circumstances. We also discuss the macroevolution of warning signals. Our review finds that we have a basic understanding of how many species in some taxonomic groups have warning signals, but very little information on the interrelationships among population abundances across prey communities, the diversity of signal phenotypes, and prey defences. We also have detailed knowledge of how a few generalist predator species forage in artificial laboratory environments, but we know much less about how predators forage in complex natural communities with variable prey defences. We describe how empirical work to address each of these knowledge gaps can test specific hypotheses for why warning signals exhibit their particular patterns of distribution. This will help us to understand how behavioural interactions shape ecological communities.

Keywords: warning coloration; mimicry; biotic communities; ecological niche; predation

Free keywords: community ecology; predator–prey interactions; ecological niche; Batesian mimicry; Müllerian mimicry; aposematism

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Preliminary JUFO rating: 2

Last updated on 2021-10-11 at 15:58