Thursday, 6 October 2016

Eat, escape, love: The price of looking sexy

Date: September 27, 2016
Source: Uppsala Universitet

In the animal kingdom colorful traits can be both a blessing and a curse. A new study from a group of researchers at Uppsala University has studied the conspicuous wing coloration of two species of damselflies. Their results imply that males, but not females, pay a high cost when using color to communicate with other damselflies, both in terms of predation risk and visibility to prey.

Many animals, such as parrots, tropical fish or butterflies, are very colorful. Such colorful displays are favoured in sexual selection as they make the animal stand out, and color may therefore enhance mating success. However, color can also be costly, as it makes the animal more conspicuous to both predators and prey. colorful traits are therefore subject to opposing selection pressures: positive sexual selection by conspecifics (increased mating success) and negative natural selection by predators (higher predation risk) and prey (lowered hunting success).

In the new paper the researchers studied the conspicuous wing coloration of two species of damselflies, which are predated by birds and prey on small flies. The conspicuous wing coloration is used in color communication between the sexes and between different species of damselflies.

Using electrophysiology, they first determined the color vision of the damselflies and found that they see well in UV as well as in the human visible range. Second, the researchers measured the wing coloration using spectrophotometry and confirmed that males are more colorful than females.

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