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Warning Signals and Predator-Prey Coevolution

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 00:48 authored by Daniel Franks, Jason Noble
Theories of the evolution of warning signals are typically expressed using analytic and computational models, most of which attribute aspects of predator psychology as the key factors facilitating the evolution of warning signals. Sherratt provides a novel and promising perspective with a model that considers the coevolution of predator and prey populations, showing how predators may develop a bias towards attacking cryptic prey in preference to conspicuous prey. Here, we replicate the model as an individual-based simulation and find, in accordance with Sherratt, that predators evolve a bias towards attacking cryptic prey. We then use a Monte Carlo simulation to calculate the relative survivorships of cryptic and conspicuous prey and stress that, as it stands, the model does not predict the evolution or stability of warning signals. We extend the model by giving predators continuous attack strategies and by allowing the evolution of prey conspicuousness: results are robust to the first modification but, in all cases, cryptic prey always enjoy a higher survivorship than conspicuous prey. When conspicuousness is allowed to evolve, prey quickly evolve towards crypsis, even when runaway coevolution is enabled. Sherratt's approach is promising, but other aspects of predator psychology, besides their innate response, remain vital to our understanding of warning signals.


Publication status

  • Published


Proceedings B: Biological Sciences




Royal Society, The





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Department affiliated with

  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Publications

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  • Yes

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