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Does colour polymorphism enhance survival of prey populations?
University of Kalmar, School of Pure and Applied Natural Sciences.
University of Kalmar, School of Pure and Applied Natural Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9598-7618
2009 (English)In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences, ISSN 0962-8452, E-ISSN 1471-2954, Vol. 276, no 1665, p. 2187-2194Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

That colour polymorphism may protect prey populations from predation is an old but rarely tested hypothesis. We examine whether colour polymorphic populations of prey exposed to avian predators in an ecologically valid visual context were exposed to increased extinction risk compared with monomorphic populations. We made 2976 artificial pastry prey, resembling Lepidoptera larvae, in four different colours and presented them in 124 monomorphic and 124 tetramorphic populations on tree trunks and branches such that they would be exposed to predation by free-living birds, and monitored their 'survival'. Among monomorphic populations, there was a significant effect of prey coloration on survival, confirming that coloration influenced susceptibility to visually oriented predators. Survival of polymorphic populations was inferior to that of monomorphic green populations, but did not differ significantly from monomorphic brown, yellow or red populations. Differences in survival within polymorphic populations paralleled those seen among monomorphic populations; the red morph most frequently went extinct first and the green morph most frequently survived the longest. Our findings do not support the traditional protective polymorphism hypothesis and are in conflict with those of earlier studies. As a possible explanation to our findings, we offer a competing 'giveaway cue' hypothesis: that polymorphic populations may include one morph that attracts the attention of predators and that polymorphic populations therefore may suffer increased predation compared with some monomorphic populations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 276, no 1665, p. 2187-2194
National Category
Evolutionary Biology
Research subject
Natural Science, Evolutionary Biology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-1963DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0252OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-1963DiVA, id: diva2:309011
Available from: 2010-04-06 Created: 2010-04-06 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Population-level consequences of variation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Population-level consequences of variation
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Consequences of within population variation have recently attracted an increased interest in evolutionary ecology research. Theoretical models suggest important population-level consequences, but many of these predictions still remain to be tested. These issues are important for a deepened understanding of population performances and persistence, especially in a world characterized by rapid fragmentation of natural habitats and other environmental changes.

I review theoretical models of consequences from intra population genetic and phenotypic variation. I find that more variable populations are predicted to be characterized by broader resource use, reduced intraspecific competition, reduced vulnerability to environmental changes, more stable population dynamics, higher invasive potential, enhanced colonization and establishment success, larger distribution ranges, higher evolvability, higher productivity, faster population growth rate, decreased extinction risk, and higher speciation rate, compared with less variable populations.

To test some of these predictions I performed experiments and compared how different degree of colour polymorphism influences predation risk and establishment success in small groups. My comparisons of predation risk in mono- and polymorphic artificial prey populations showed that the risk of being eaten by birds does not only depend on the coloration of the individual prey item itself, but also on the coloration of the other members of the group. Two experiments on establishment success in small founder groups of

Tetrix subulata pygmy grasshoppers with different degree of colour morph diversity show that establishment success increases with higher degree of diversity, both under controlled conditions in outdoor enclosures and in the wild. These findings may be important for re-stocking of declining populations or re-introductions of locally extinct populations in conservation biology projects.

I report on remarkably rapid evolutionary shifts in colour morph frequencies in response to the changed environmental conditions in replicated natural populations of pygmy grasshoppers in fire ravaged areas. This finding

1

illustrates the high adaptive potential in a polymorphic species, and indicates the importance of preserved within-species diversity for evolutionary rescue.

Finally, I review if theoretical predictions are supported by other published empirical tests and find strong support for the predictions that more variable groups benefit from reduced vulnerability to environmental changes, reduced population fluctuations and extinction risk, larger distribution ranges, and higher colonization or establishment success.

In conclusion, my thesis illustrates how within-population variation influences ecological and evolutionary performances of populations both in the short and long term. As such, it emphasizes the need for conservation of biodiversity also within populations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Kalmar: Linnaeus University Press, 2012. p. 53
Series
Linnaeus University Dissertations ; 105
Keywords
colour polymorphism, diversity, establishment success, evolutionary changes, population-level consequences, predation risk, Tetrix subulata, variation
National Category
Evolutionary Biology
Research subject
Natural Science, Evolutionary Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-32522 (URN)978-91-86983-90-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2012-12-14, Fullriggaren, Linnéuniversitetet, Landgången 4, Kalmar, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2014-03-27 Created: 2014-02-27 Last updated: 2014-12-19Bibliographically approved

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Wennersten, LenaForsman, Anders

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