Eye camouflage and false eyespots: chaetodontid responses to predators

  • Stephen Neudecker


The roles of eye camouflage and eyespots are examined within the genusChaetodon as are the various theories explaining the evolutionary significance of the brilliant colors. While eye camouflage is not common among reef fishes, 91% of the 90 species ofChaetodon, have eyemasks (82) or black heads (4). Eye camouflage occurs concomitantly with diurnal false eyespots in 45.5% (41 of 90) of the species. Diurnal false eyespots serve to misdirect attacks by predators and/or to advertise unpalatability. False eyespots are located on areas of the body which allow escape and survival following an attack. Data suggesting that predators learn about the undesirability of butterflyfishes are presented. Butterflyfishes are inactive at night, forage during the day and spawn at dusk. It is unlikely that nocturnal color changes are useful in conspecific interactions and are therefore believed to provide visual cues to potential predators. Nocturnal eyespots probably function to intimidate potential predators but could also remind them of unpalatability. The aggression release hypothesis (Lorenz 1962, 1966) to explain the brilliant coloration of chaetodontids is not supported because butterflyfish coloration changes and few species are territorial. The species recognition hypothesis (Zumpe 1965) is not supported by results of field experiments. The disruptive coloration hypothesis (Longley 1917) is rejected as a general explanation for poster coloration but does explain the prevalence of eyebars ofChaetodon spp. The aposematic hypothesis (Gosline 1965) is supported by morphology, behavior, a lack of predation and field observations. The possibility of Mullerian mimicry is suggested. It is concluded that the primary selective force behind chaetodontid coloration, particularly eyespots, has been predation and color patterns have evolved to minimize this threat.

Key words

Butterflyfishes Chaetodon Communication Coloration hypotheses Aposematic coloration Mullerian mimicry 

References cited

  1. Allen, G.R. 1980. Butterfly and angelfishes of the world, Vol. 2. Wiley-Interspace, New York. 352 pp.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, R. 1967. Functional design in fishes. Hutchinson, London. 160 ppGoogle Scholar
  3. Barlow, G.W. 1972. The attitude of fish eye-lines in relation to body shape and to stripes and bars. Copiea 1972: 4–12Google Scholar
  4. Brower, L.P. 1988. Preface: mimicry and the evolutionary process. Amer. Nat. Suppl. 131: 1–3Google Scholar
  5. Burgess, W.E. 1978. Butterflyfishes of the world. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City. 832 ppGoogle Scholar
  6. Cott, H.B. 1957. Adaptive coloration in animals. Methuen Press. London. 508 pp. (Reprinted with minor corrections; first published 1940)Google Scholar
  7. Edmunds, M.E. 1974. Defence in animals: a survey of antipredator defences. Longman, Burnt Mill. 357 ppGoogle Scholar
  8. Ehrlich, P.R. 1975. The population biology of coral reef fishes. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 6: 211–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ehrlich, P.R., F.H. Talbot, P.C. Russell & G.R. Anderson. 1977. The behavior of chaetodontid fishes with special reference to Lorenz' ‘poster colouration’ hypothesis. J. Zool. Lond. 183: 312–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fricke, H.W. 1966. Atrappenversuche mit einigen plukatfarbigen Korallenfishen in Roten Meer. Z. Tierpsychol. 23: 4–7Google Scholar
  11. Fricke, H.W. 1973. Der Einfluss des Lichtes auf Korperfarbund and dammerungsverhalten des Korallenfischen Chaetodon melannotus. Mar. Biol. 22: 251–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gawlik, R.J. 1984. Avoidance leaming and memory in the largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), fed Bufo tadpoles. Masters' thesis, University of Eastern Illinois, Charleston. 45 ppGoogle Scholar
  13. Gosline, W.A. 1965. Thoughts on systematic work in outlaying areas. Syst. Zool. 14: 59–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guilford, T. 1968. The evolution of conspicuous coloration. Amer. Nat. (Suppl.) 131: 7–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hailman, J.P. 1977. Optical signals. Indiana University Press, Bloomington. 362 ppGoogle Scholar
  16. Hailman, J.P. 1981. A test of symmetry-deception in a chaetodontid fish. Anim. Behav. 29: 1266–1267Google Scholar
  17. Hamilton, W.J.III & R.M. Peterman. 1971. Countershading in the colourful reef fish Chaetodon lunula: concealment, communication, or both? Anim. Behav. 19: 357–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hiatt, R.W. & D.W. Strasburg. 1960. Ecological relationships of the fish fauna on coral reefs on the Marshall Island. Ecol. Monogr. 30: 65–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hinton, H.F. 1977. Mimicry provides information about the perceptual capacities of predators. Folia Entomol. Mex. 37: 19–29Google Scholar
  20. Hobson, E.S. 1979. Interactions between piscivorous fishes and their prey. pp. 231–242. In: H.E. Clepper (ed.) Predator-Prey Systems in Fisheries Management, Sport Fishing Inst., WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  21. Hobson, E.S. 1974. Feeding relationships of teleostean fishes on coral reefs in Kona, Hawaii. U.S. Fish. Bull. 77: 915–1031Google Scholar
  22. Hobson, E.S. & E.H. Chave. 1972. Hawaiian reef animals. University Hawaii Press, Honolulu. 135 ppGoogle Scholar
  23. Huheey, J.E. 1984. Warning coloration and mimicry. pp. 257–297. In: W.J. Bell & R.T. Cadre (ed.) Chemical Ecology of Insects, Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Huheey, J.E. 1988. Mathematical models of mimicry. Amer. Nat. (Suppl.) 131: 22–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kruse, K.C. & B.M. Stone. 1984. Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) learn to avoid feeding on toad Bufo tadpoles. Anim. Behav. 32: 1035–1044CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Leccia, F.M. 1970. Estudios preliminares sobre la ecologia de los peces de los Ilanos de Venezuela. Acta Biol., Venezuela 7: 71–102Google Scholar
  27. Levine, J.S., P.S. Lobel & E.F. MacNichol. 1980. Visual communication in fishes. pp. 447–476. In: M.A. Ali (ed.) Environmental Physiology of Fishes, Plenum Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Longley, W.H. 1917. Studies upon the biological significance of animal coloration. I: The colors and color changes of West Indian reef-fishes. Z. exp. Zool. 1: 533–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lorenz, K. 1962. The function of colour in coral reef fishes. Proc. Roy. Inst. Gt. Brit. 39: 282–296Google Scholar
  30. Lorenz, K. 1966. On aggression. Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York. 306 ppGoogle Scholar
  31. Losey, G.S. 1972. Predation protection in the poison-fang blenny, Meiacanthus atrodorsalis, and its mimics, Ecsenium bicolor and Runula laudandus (Blenniidae). Pac. Sci. 26: 129–139Google Scholar
  32. Losey, G.S. 1978. The symbiotic behavior of fishes. pp. 05–235. In: D.I. Mostofskyz (ed.) The Behavior of Fish and Other Aquatic Animals, Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. McCosker, J.E. 1977. Fright posture of the plesiopid fish Calloplesiops altivelis: an example of Batesian mimicry. Science 197: 400–401Google Scholar
  34. Meyers, R.F. 1980. Chaetodon flavocoronatus, a new species of butterfly fish from Guam. Micronesica 16: 297–303Google Scholar
  35. Motta, P.J. 1984. Response by potential prey to coral reef predators. Anim. Behav. 31: 1257–1259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Myrberg, A.A. & R.E. Thresher. 1974. Interspecific aggression and its relevance to the concept of territoriality in fishes. Amer. Zool. 14: 81–96Google Scholar
  37. Neudecker, S. 1979. Effects of grazing and browsing fishes on the zonation of corals in Guam. Ecology 60: 666–672CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Neudecker, S. & P.S. Lobel. 1982. Mating systems of chaetodontid and pomacanthid fishes at St. Croix. Z. Tierpsychol. 59: 299–318Google Scholar
  39. Pasteur, G. 1982. A classificatory review of mimicry systems. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 13: 169–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pough, F.H. 1988. Mimicry of vertebrates: are the rules different? Amer. Nat. (Suppl.) 131: 67–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Randall, J. 1967. Food habits of reef fishes of the West Indies. Stud. Trop. Oceanogr. 5: 665–847Google Scholar
  42. Randall, J.E. & H.A. Randall. 1960. Examples of mimicry and protective resemblance in tropical marine fishes. Bull. Mar. Sci. Gulf Caribb. 10: 444–480Google Scholar
  43. Rasa, O.A.E. 1969. Territoriality and the establishment of dominance by means of visual cues in Pomacentrus jenkinsi Pisces: Pomacentridae. Z. Tierpsychol. 26: 825–845Google Scholar
  44. Reese, E.S. 1973. Duration of residence by coral reef fishes on ‘home’ reefs Copiea 1: 145–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Reese, E.S. 1975. A comparative field study of the social behavior and related ecology of reef fishes of the family Chaetodontidae. Z. Tierpsychol. 37: 37–61Google Scholar
  46. Reighard, J. 1908. An experimental study of warning coloration in coral reef fishes. Pap. Tortugas Lab. 2: 257–325Google Scholar
  47. Rettenmeyer, C.W. 1970. Insect mimicry. Ann. Rev. Entomol. 15: 43–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rothschild, M. 1964. An extension of Dr. Lincoln Brower's theory on bird predation and food specificity, together with some observations on bird memory in relation to aposematic colour patterns. Entomologist 1964: 73–78Google Scholar
  49. Rothschild, M. 1972. Colour and poisons in insect protection. New Sci. 54: 318–320Google Scholar
  50. Steene, R.C. 1978. Butterfly and angelfishes of the world, Vol. 1. John Wiley & Sons, New York. 144 ppGoogle Scholar
  51. Thresher, R.E. 1977. Eye ornamentation of Carribbean reef fishes. Z. Tierpsychol. 43: 152–158Google Scholar
  52. Waldbauer, G.P. 1988. Asynchrony between batesian mimics and their models. Amer. Nat. (Suppl.) 133: 103–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wickler, W. 1968. Mimicry in plants and animals. McGraw-Hill, New York. 255 ppGoogle Scholar
  54. Zaret, T.M. 1977. Inhibition of cannibalism in Cichla ocellaris and hypothesis of predator mimicry among South American fishes. Evolution 31: 421–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zumpe, D. 1965. Laboratory observations on the aggressive behavior of some butterfly fishes Chaetodontidae. Z. Tierpsychol. 22: 226–236Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Neudecker
    • 1
  1. 1.Bayfront Conservancy TrustChula VistaU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations