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The antipredator benefits of postural camouflage in peppered moth caterpillars.

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Camouflage is the most common form of antipredator defense, and is a textbook example of natural selection. How animals' appearances prevent detection or recognition is well studied, but the role of prey behavior has received much less attention. Here we report a series of experiments with twig-mimicking larvae of the American peppered moth Biston betularia that test the long-held view that prey have evolved postures that enhance their camouflage, and establish how food availability and ambient temperature affect these postures. We found that predators took longer to attack larvae that were resting in a twig-like posture than larvae resting flat against a branch. Larvae that were chilled or food restricted (manipulations intended to energetically stress larvae) adopted a less twig-like posture than larvae that were fed ad libitum. Our findings provide clear evidence that animals gain antipredator benefits from postural camouflage, and suggest that benefits may come at an energetic cost that animals are unwilling or unable to pay under some conditions.


Funder: Churchill College, University of Cambridge; doi:

Funder: Projekt DEAL


Animals, Biological Evolution, Larva, Moths, Pigmentation, Predatory Behavior

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/E016626/1, NE/E016626/1)