, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 51-66

Evolution of conspicuous colouration, body size and gregariousness: a comparative analysis of lepidopteran larvae

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Abstract

Protective colouration in animals includes camouflage (i.e., crypsis), that decreases the risk of detection, and conspicuous colouration, which is often used in combination with chemical defences to deter predators from attacking. Experiments have shown that the efficacy of conspicuous colouration increases with increasing size of pattern elements and larger body size. Prey species that have acquired avoidance inducing colouration therefore may be exposed to selection for larger body size, and such colouration may more easily evolve in large than in small prey species. Here we test for a difference in body size between species with different colouration modes and perform a comparative analysis based on phylogenetically independent contrasts to examine if evolutionary shifts in colour pattern have been associated with evolutionary changes in body size, using data for 578 species of moths. Larval body size did not differ between species with signalling and non-signalling larvae, and results from the comparative analysis suggest that these two traits have not evolved in parallel. The lack of association between evolutionary changes in colouration and body size may reflect a confounding influence of lifestyle, because evolutionary shifts from solitary to group-living larvae were associated with decreased larval body length and adult wing span. Because evolutionary changes in larval body size were associated with evolutionary changes in adult wing span the predicted association between colouration and size may have been confounded also by conflicting selection on body size in larvae and adults.