Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Predators Drive the Evolution of Poison Dart Frogs’ Skin Patterns

Natural selection has played a role in the development of the many skins patterns of the tiny Ranitomeya imitator poison dart frog, according to a study that will be published in an upcoming edition of American Naturalist by University of Montreal biologist Mathieu Chouteau.

The researcher’s methodology was rather unusual: on three occasions over three days, at two different sites, Chouteau investigated the number of attacks that had been made on fake frogs, by counting how many times that had been pecked. Those that were attacked the least looked like local frogs, while those that came from another area had obviously been targeted.

Mathieu Chouteau, Université de Montréal
Research published in the American Naturalist by Université de Montréal's Mathieu Chouteau links the colours and patterns of poison dart frogs to their predators.

The brightly coloured frogs that we find in tropical forests are in fact sending a clear message to predators: “don’t come near me, I’m poisonous!” But why would a single species need multiple patterns when one would do? It appears that when predators do not recognize a poisonous frog as being a member of the local group, it attacks in the hope that it has chanced upon edible prey. “When predators see that their targets are of a different species, they attack. Over the long term, that explains how patterns and colours become uniform in an area,” said Bernard Angers, who directed Chouteau’s doctoral research.

A total of 3,600 life-size plasticine models, each less than one centimetre long, were used in the study. The menagerie was divided between two carefully identified sites in the Amazon forest. “The trickiest part was transporting my models without arousing suspicion at the airport and customs controls,” Chouteau said. He chose plasticine following a review of scientific literature.

“Many scientists have successfully used plasticine to create models of snakes, salamanders and poison dart frogs.” The Peruvian part of the forest proved to be ideal for this study, as two radically different looking groups of frogs are found there: one, living on a plain, has yellow stripes, and the other, living on a mountain, has green patches. The two colonies are ten kilometers apart. 900 fake frogs were placed in each area in carefully targeted positions. Various combinations of colours and patterns were used.

Chouteau was particularly surprised by the “very small spatial scale at which the evolutionary process has taken place.” Ten kilometers of separation sufficed for a clearly different adaptation to take place. “A second surprise was the learning abilities of the predator community, especially the speed at which the learning process takes place when a new and exotic defensive signal is introduced on a massive scale,” Chouteau said.

This process could be at origin of the wide range of colour patterns that are observed not only in frogs but also many species of butterflies, bees, and other animals. Mathieu Chouteau is in fact currently undertaking post-doctoral research into the Heliconius genus of butterfly. “Considering that this kind of project requires regular field work, I have taken up residence in the small town of Tarapoto, where I am responsible for the opening of a research centre that will facilitate the study of neotropical butterfly mimicry,” he said.

Source : Mathieu-Robert Sauvé, Université de Montréal
Mathieu Chouteau is currently in Peru, where he is undertaking postdoctoral research in collaboration with the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris.
• The Role of Predators in Maintaining the Geographic Organization of Aposematic Signals, American Naturalist :

• Département de sciences biologiques de l'Université de Montréal :

Media contact:
William Raillant-Clark
International Press Attaché
Université de Montréal
Te: 514-343-7593 | | @uMontreal_News

William Raillant-Clark | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht ‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>