Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Mixed signals from poisonous moths

Date:  June 4, 2018
Source:  University of Exeter

Poisonous moths use bright red spots to warn predators to avoid them -- but natural variation in these wing markings doesn't provide clear indications of how toxic individual moths might be -- new research shows.

University of Exeter scientists studied six-spot burnet moths, which produce cyanide-based compounds to make themselves a bad snack for predators, to see if differences in colours indicated different toxicity levels.

While smaller and paler red forewing markings were associated with more cyanide in females, size and brightness of wing colour were no guide to cyanide levels in males.

"Many animals use aposematism (warning colouration) to tell predators it would be better to find lunch elsewhere," said first author Emmanuelle Briolat, of the University of Exeter.

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