Effects of avian predator psychology on signal design

Project leader

Funding source

Swedish Research Council - Vetenskapsrådet (VR)

Project Details

Start date: 01/01/2003
End date: 31/12/2006
Funding: 6459440 SEK


Aposematism is a common signalling system in nature, where animals that possess some kind of defence against predation signal this to potential predators with a conspicuous warning coloration. Although much is known about under what circumstances an aposematic strategy may evolve, and of how warning coloration may work as a signal to predators, we still do not fully understand how animals interpret warning signals, and why signals are designed the way they are. For instance, the function of patterns such as contrasting stripes and dots, that are so common in waning colorations, is yet unknown. Have patterns evolved to increase the signal efficacy, or do they have other purposes? All signals, needs to be easy to detect, to discriminate and to memorize by the intended receivers to be as efficient as possible. In this project I aim to experimentally study discrimination and generalization behaviour in birds, one of the main receivers of warning signals, to investigate what signal design features are beneficial for different purposes. I aim to apply theories of animal learning psychology to what is currently known about predator reactions to prey coloration to gain a fuller understanding of what selection pressures operate on signals in nature. I also aim to study effects of the signallers on the behaviour of the receivers, by studying intra-individual variation in birds’ behaviour and how their tendency to generalize colours and patterns may vary with experience and with diet.

Last updated on 2017-31-03 at 12:58