, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 739-753

Sexual dimorphism and intra-populational colour pattern variation in the aposematic frog Dendrobates tinctorius

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Abstract

Despite the predicted purifying role of stabilising selection against variation in warning signals, many aposematic species exhibit high variation in their colour patterns. The maintenance of such variation is not well understood, but it has been suggested to be the result of an interaction between sexual and natural selection. This interaction could also facilitate the evolution of sexual dichromatism. Here we analyse in detail the colour patterns of the poison frog Dendrobates tinctorius and evaluate the possible correlates of the variability in aposematic signals in a natural population. Against the theoretical predictions of aposematism, we found that there is enormous intra-populational variation in colour patterns and that these also differ between the sexes: males have a yellower dorsum and bluer limbs than females. We discuss the possible roles of natural and sexual selection in the maintenance of this sexual dimorphism in coloration and argue that parental care could work synergistically with aposematism to select for yellower males.