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Phenotypic polymorphism in cryptic species is widespread. This may evolve in response to search image use by predators exerting negative frequency-dependent selection on intraspecific colour morphs, "apostatic selection". Evidence exists to indicate search image formation by predators and apostatic selection operating on wild prey populations, though not to demonstrate search image use directly resulting in apostatic selection. The present study attempted to address this deficiency, using British Lepidoptera active in winter as a model system. It has been proposed that the typically polymorphic wing colouration of these species represents an anti-search image adaptation against birds. To test (a) for search image driven apostatic selection, dimorphic populations of artificial moth-like models were established in woodland at varying relative morph frequencies and exposed to predation by natural populations of birds. In addition, to test (b) whether abundance and degree of polymorphism are correlated across British winter-active moths, as predicted where search image use drives apostatic selection, a series of phylogenetic comparative analyses were conducted. There was a positive relationship between artificial morph frequency and probability of predation, consistent with birds utilising search images and exerting apostatic selection. Abundance and degree of polymorphism were found to be positively correlated across British Lepidoptera active in winter, though not across all taxonomic groups analysed. This evidence is consistent with polymorphism in this group having evolved in response to search image driven apostatic selection and supports the viability of this mechanism as a means by which phenotypic and genetic variation may be maintained in natural populations. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of evolutionary biology
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The interdisciplinary science that studies evolutionary biology, including the origin and evolution of the major elements required for life, their processing in the interstellar medium and in protostellar systems. This field also includes the study of chemical evolution and the subsequent interactions between evolving biota and planetary evolution as well as the field of biology that deals with the study of extraterrestrial life.
A British overseas territory, part of the British West Indies, lying about 60 miles east of Puerto Rico. Tortola is the main island, other islands include Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada.
Evolution at the molecular level of DNA sequences and proteins. (Rieger et al., Glossary of Genetics: Classical and Molecular, 5th ed)
The regular and simultaneous occurrence in a single interbreeding population of two or more discontinuous genotypes. The concept includes differences in genotypes ranging in size from a single nucleotide site (POLYMORPHISM, SINGLE NUCLEOTIDE) to large nucleotide sequences visible at a chromosomal level.
The techniques used to produce molecules exhibiting properties that conform to the demands of the experimenter. These techniques combine methods of generating structural changes with methods of selection. They are also used to examine proposed mechanisms of evolution under in vitro selection conditions.