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Data from: No evidence of quantitative signal honesty across species of aposematic burnet moths (Lepidoptera: Zygaenidae)


Briolat, Emmanuelle S. et al. (2018), Data from: No evidence of quantitative signal honesty across species of aposematic burnet moths (Lepidoptera: Zygaenidae), Dryad, Dataset,


Many defended species use conspicuous visual warning signals to deter potential predators from attacking. Traditional theory holds that these signals should converge on similar forms, yet variation in visual traits and the levels of defensive chemicals is common, both within and between species. It is currently unclear how the strength of signals and potency of defences might be related: conflicting theories suggest that aposematic signals should be quantitatively honest, or, in contrast, that investment in one component should be prioritised over the other, while empirical tests have yielded contrasting results. Here, we advance this debate by examining the relationship between defensive chemicals and signal properties in a family of aposematic Lepidoptera, accounting for phylogenetic relationships and quantifying coloration from the perspective of relevant predators. We test for correlations between toxin levels and measures of wing colour across 14 species of day-flying burnet and forester moths (Lepidoptera: Zygaenidae), protected by highly aversive cyanogenic glucosides, and find no clear evidence of quantitative signal honesty. Significant relationships between toxin levels and coloration vary between sexes and sampling years, and several trends run contrary to expectations for signal honesty. Although toxin concentration is positively correlated with increasing luminance contrast in forewing pattern in one year, higher toxin levels are also associated with paler and less chromatically salient markings, at least in females, in another year. Our study also serves to highlight important factors, including sex-specific trends and seasonal variation, that should be accounted for in future work on signal honesty in aposematic species.

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United Kingdom