Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford


Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_313-1



A characteristic that signals to potential predators that an animal is unprofitable as prey


Many animals are toxic, unpalatable, or otherwise unsuitable as prey items to potential predators. Such species often advertise their unprofitability to predators using warning signals, which is referred to as aposematism. This is generally advantageous to both predator and prey: the former avoids the costs of pursuing an unsuitable meal (ranging from wasted energy to illness or death) and the latter avoids a predation attempt. Aposematic signals contain two components: a secondary defense used upon attack by predators – such as chemical toxicity – that makes the prey unprofitable and a primary defense – such as a distinctive color or odor – that advertises this unprofitability and therefore functions to prevent attack. For instance, ladybird beetles are toxic to predators and advertise this with brightly...


Aposematic Signal Aposematic Species Unprofitable Prey Secondary Defense Predicate Learning 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Constance Dubuc
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK