Aposematism in Costa Rica

This topic submitted by Tom Sterling ( sterlitm@miamioh.edu) at 11:07 PM on 3/24/04.

Susan found a "Treasure Chest" in Fernandez Bay, San Salvador, Bahamas. See other beautiful phenomena from the Bahamas.

Tropical Field Courses -Western Program-Miami University

Topic: Aposematism in Costa Rica

Many people do not understand the function of aposematic coloration and merely appreciate the individuals that exhibit such markings for their beauty. In reality, these bright colored animals use the mechanism to signal themselves to predators as threatening prey that are fatal if consumed. I am curious as to how this mechanism evolved and how effective it really is. The fact that other animals lacking poisonous glands, take advantage of naturally dangerous individuals through mimcry will also be covered. I think this is a fitting topic based on the wildlife that I hope to have the chance to see when we are out on our field trips.


I. Aposematism
A. Defintion
B. Evolution of the mechanism
C. Purpose/Advantages/Disadvantages
II. Examples in Costa Rica
A. Darter Frogs
i. Description
B. Snakes
i. Description
C. Caterpillar/Moths
i. Description
III. Mimicry
A. Definition
B. Advantages/Disadvantages
IV. Conclusion

Tentative Bibliography:

Brodie III, Edmund D. and Aneil F. Agrawal. “Maternal Effects and the Evolution of Aposematic Signals.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 98.16 (2001): 7884-7887.

Endler, J.A. “Frequency-Dependent Predations, Crypsis and Aposematic Coloration.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 319 (1988): 505-522.

Gamberale, Gabriella and Birgitta S. Tullberg. “Evidence for a Peak-Shift in Predator Generalization among Aposematic Prey.” Proceedings: Biological Sciences. 263 (1996): 1329-1334.

Herrera, Carlos M. “Aposematic Insects as Six-Legged Fruits: Incidental Short-Circuiting of Their Defense by Frugivorous Birds.” The American Naturalist. 126 (1985): 286-293.

Holloway, Graham J. et al. “A Quantitative Genetic Analysis of an Aposematic Colour Pattern and Its Ecological Implications.” Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences. 348 (1995): 373-379.

Leimar, Olof. et al. “Evolutionary Stability of Aposematic Coloration and Prey
Unprofitability: A Theoretical Analysis.” The American Naturalist. 128 (1986):

Lindstrom, Leena, et al. “Strong Antiapostatic Selection against Novel Rare Aposematic Prey.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 98 (2001): 9181-9184.

Waldbauer, G.P. and J.G. Sternburg. “Experimental Field Demonstration that Two
Aposematic Butterfly Color Patterns Do Not Confer Protection Against Birds in Northern Michigan.” American Midland Naturalist. 118 (1987): 145-152.

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