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Bioacoustic paper in Nature‏‏‏

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Subject: Bioacoustic paper in Nature‏‏‏
From: Jianqiang XIAO <>
Date: Tue, 9 Sep 2008 01:59:07 +0800
Nature 455, 96-99 (4 September 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07087

Multimodal warning signals for a multiple predator world

John M. Ratcliffe1,3 & Marie L. Nydam2,3

   1. Center for Sound Communication, Institute of Biology, University of 
Southern Denmark, DK-5230 Odense M, Denmark
   2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, 
Ithaca, New York 14853, USA
   3. These authors contributed equally to this work.

Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to M.L.N. (Email: 
 or J.M.R. (Email: 


Aposematism is an anti-predator defence, dependent on a predator's ability to 
associate unprofitable prey with a prey-borne signal1. Multimodal signals 
should vary in efficacy according to the sensory systems of different 
predators; however, until now, the impact of multiple predator classes on the 
evolution of these signals had not been investigated2, 3. Here, using a 
community-level molecular phylogeny to generate phylogenetically independent 
contrasts, we show that warning signals of tiger moths vary according to the 
seasonal and daily activity patterns of birds and bats—predators with divergent 
sensory capacities. Many tiger moths advertise chemical defence4, 5 using 
conspicuous colouration and/or ultrasonic clicks3, 6. During spring, when birds 
are active and bats less so, we found that tiger moths did not produce 
ultrasonic clicks. Throughout both spring and summer, tiger moths most active 
during the day were visually conspicuous. Those species emerging later in the 

 ason produced ultrasonic clicks; those that were most nocturnal were visually 
cryptic. Our results indicate that selective pressures from multiple predator 
classes have distinct roles in the evolution of multimodal warning displays now 
effective against a single predator class. We also suggest that the evolution 
of acoustic warning signals may lack the theoretical difficulties associated 
with the origination of conspicuous colouration.



XIAO, Jianqiang, Ph.D.
Research Associate
Psychology Department
Rutgers University
152 Frelinghuysen Road
Piscataway, NJ 08854

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