Variation in warning colouration

Many defenced species advertise their unprofitably as prey with signals, such as bright colours, that make it easier for predators to learn to avoid them. Aposematic theory predicts that predators should select for warning signals to converge on a single form, however there are many examples in nature where this is not the case.

Figure showing examples of warning signal variation across taxa, taken from our 2018 paper: Briolat et al. Diversity in warning coloration: selective paradox or the norm?

Using both the polymorphic wood tiger moth, and the highly variable hibiscus harlequin bug I look at how environmental conditions can contribute to the maintenance of warning colour variation, as well as how chemical and visual cues can interact to produce avoidance in predators and attraction in potential mates.

Photo credit: Liesbeth Dingemans