Seasonal change in defensive coloration in a shieldbug
Sammanfattning: Protective coloration such as aposematism and crypsis occurs in many insects but only a few species alter their defensive strategy during the same instar. We hypothesize the adult shield bug Graphosoma lineatum with an alternating black and non-melanised longitudinal striation exhibit such a change in defensive coloration. In Sweden, the non-melanised stripes of the pre-hibernation G. lineatum are pale brown and cryptic but they change during hibernation to red and aposematic. We have tested the adaptive functions of coloration of the two G. lineatum forms against bird predators. In Paper I we used great tits as predators and measured detection time of the two forms against a background of dry grass and plants, simulating late-summer conditions. We found that the birds took longer time to find the pale than the red form. Thus, the pale form of G. lineatum is more cryptic in a dry environment than the red form. In Paper II and III we used naïve predators and measured attack rate/latency on red and pale adults and fifth-instar larvae (black and brown) to investigate avoidance and generalisation between the stages. In Paper II domestic chicks initially found the red form most intimidating, but both adult forms are more intimidating than the larva. Moreover, there was a broad generalisation among forms. In Paper III naïve great tits did not find the red form significantly more aversive than the pale adult. Neither the chicks nor the tits showed any difference in the speed of avoidance learning between the two adult colour forms. In Paper IV the shieldbugs themselves were the main focus as we compared activity levels in the different colour forms and found that G. lineatum alters behaviour in accordance to their protective strategy. Thus they were significantly less active during the cryptic phase. Taken together, these experiments suggest that the pale brown adult invests in a cryptic strategy at the cost of reduced protection from aposematism, whereas the red adult benefits from aposematism at the cost of reduced camouflage.
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