From Cues to Signals: Evolution of Interspecific Communication via Aposematism and Mimicry in a Predator-Prey System Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Current theory suggests that many signaling systems evolved from preexisting cues. In aposematic systems, prey warning signals benefit both predator and prey. When the signal is highly beneficial, a third species often evolves to mimic the toxic species, exploiting the signaling system for its own protection. We investigated the evolutionary dynamics of predator cue utilization and prey signaling in a digital predator-prey system in which prey could evolve to alter their appearance to mimic poison-free or poisonous prey. In predators, we observed rapid evolution of cue recognition (i.e. active behavioral responses) when presented with sufficiently poisonous prey. In addition, active signaling (i.e. mimicry) evolved in prey under all conditions that led to cue utilization. Thus we show that despite imperfect and dishonest signaling, given a high cost of consuming poisonous prey, complex systems of interspecific communication can evolve via predator cue recognition and prey signal manipulation. This provides evidence supporting hypotheses that cues may serve as stepping-stones in the evolution of more advanced communication and signaling systems that incorporate information about the environment.


  • Lehmann, Kenna DS
  • Goldman, Brian W
  • Dworkin, Ian
  • Bryson, David M
  • Wagner, Aaron P

publication date

  • 2014