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The evolution of colour polymorphism in British winter-active Lepidoptera in response to search image use by avian predators.

08:00 EDT 10th May 2018 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "The evolution of colour polymorphism in British winter-active Lepidoptera in response to search image use by avian predators."

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.

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This article was published in the following journal.

Name: Journal of evolutionary biology
ISSN: 1420-9101
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