Faculté des sciences

Positive frequency-dependent selection on warning color in alpine leaf beetles

Borer, Matthias ; Noort, Tom Van ; Rahier, Martine ; Naisbit, Russell E.

In: Evolution, 2010, vol. 64, no. 12, p. 3629–3633

Müller's theory of warning color and mimicry, despite forming a textbook example of frequency-dependent selection, has rarely been demonstrated in the wild. This may be largely due to the practical and statistical difficulties of measuring natural selection on mobile prey species. Here we demonstrate that this selection acts in alpine beetle communities by using tethered beetles exposed to... More

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    Summary
    Müller's theory of warning color and mimicry, despite forming a textbook example of frequency-dependent selection, has rarely been demonstrated in the wild. This may be largely due to the practical and statistical difficulties of measuring natural selection on mobile prey species. Here we demonstrate that this selection acts in alpine beetle communities by using tethered beetles exposed to natural predators. Oreina gloriosa leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) possess chemical defense in the form of cardenolides, accompanied by what appears to be warning color in bright metallic blues and greens. Individuals that match the locally predominant color morph have increased survival, with odds of week-long survival increased by a factor of 1.67 over those that do not match. This corresponds to selection of 13% against foreign morphs. Such selection, acting in concert with variation in community composition, could be responsible for geographic variation in warning color. However, in the face of this purifying selection, the within-population polymorphism seen in many Oreina species remains paradoxical.