Warning signals are seductive: Relative contributions of color and pattern to predator avoidance and mate attraction in Heliconius butterflies

Monday, November 17, 2014: 10:00 AM
Portland Ballroom 255 (Oregon Convention Center)
Susan D. Finkbeiner , Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA
Adriana D. Briscoe , Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA
Robert Reed , Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Visual signaling in animals can serve many uses, including predator deterrence and mate attraction. In many cases aposematic signals used to advertise unprofitability to predators are also used for intraspecific communication. Although aposematism and mate choice are significant forces driving the evolution of many animal phenotypes, the interplay between relevant visual signals remains little explored. Here we address this question in the aposematic passion-vine butterfly Heliconius erato by using color and pattern-manipulated models to test the contributions of different visual signals to both mate choice and warning coloration. We found that the relative effectiveness of a model at escaping predation was equivalent to its effectiveness at attracting mates, and in both cases wing color was more predictive of fitness benefits than wing pattern. Overall, however, a combination of the appropriate color and pattern was most successful for both predator deterrence and mate attraction. By exploring the relative contributions of color versus pattern in predation and mate preference studies, we have shown how both natural and sexual selection can work together to favor the evolution of specific animal color patterns.