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Maternal effects and the evolution of aposematic signals

Summary: Maternal effects and the evolution of
aposematic signals
Edmund D. Brodie III* and Aneil F. Agrawal
Department of Biology, Indiana University, 1001 East 3rd Street, Bloomington, IN 47405-3700
Edited by May R. Berenbaum, University of Illinois at Urbana­Champaign, Urbana, IL, and approved May 4, 2001 (received for review February 14, 2001)
Aposematic signals that warn predators of the noxious qualities
of prey gain their greatest selective advantage when predators
have already experienced similar signals. Existing theory ex-
plains how such signals can spread through selective advantage
after they are present at some critical frequency, but is unclear
about how warning signals can be selectively advantageous
when the trait is initially rare (i.e., when it first arises through
mutation) and predators are naive. When aposematism is con-
trolled by a maternal effect gene, the difficulty of initial rarity
may be overcome. Unlike a zygotically expressed gene, a ma-
ternally expressed aposematism gene will be hidden from se-
lection because it is not phenotypically expressed in the first
individual with the mutation. Furthermore, the first individual
carrying the new mutation will produce an entire family of
aposematic offspring, thereby providing an immediate fitness


Source: Agrawal, Aneil F. - Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto
Brodie III, Edmund D. - Department of Biology, University of Virginia


Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology