, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 201–202 | Cite as

Chemical aposematism



Discussions of aposematism traditionally have focused on the visual displays of prey that denote unpalatability or toxicity to predators. However, the construct of aposematism accommodates a spectrum of unprofitable traits signaled through various sensory modalities, including contact and distance chemoreception. Aposematism, involving learned aversions by signal receivers or selection for their unlearned avoidances, arises in predator–prey or other interspecific interactions where a mutually beneficial avoidance of signal emitters by signal receivers exists. Aposematism evolves by selection against signal receivers, e.g., predators, imposed by signal emitters, e.g., unprofitable prey, and vice versa, where both nondiscriminating signal receivers and unrecognized signal emitters are imperiled. Chemical aposematism entails concurrent reciprocal selection where signal emitters select for chemosensory avoidance responses in signal receivers, and where signal receivers select for the emission of identifiable (distinctive) chemicals in signal emitters.


Aposematism Chemical defense 


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Smithsonian Conservation Biology InstituteNational Zoological ParkFront RoyalUSA

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