In a new study, SCBI's Paul Weldon and University of Tennessee at Knoxville professor Gordon Burghardt propose that conspicuous organisms arise when predator and prey populations interact. Conspicuous prey organisms are favored when predators, by chance, recognize and avoid their novel appearance. Organisms that are not distinguished by conspicuous features are attacked and perish. The mechanism they propose for this is called concurrent reciprocal selection because both the innate avoidance behavior of predators and the novel prey cues to which predators are averse appear coincidentally. In contrast to the traditional view of warning signals perceived visually, these researchers point to auditory, chemical and other types of prey signals to divert predators.
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