Physiology: Animal Function and Reproduction


Why are some animals so brightly colored while others are so dull?

Bright coloration has two general functions. The individual with such coloration is trying to advertise either to members of its own species or to those of other species. Within species, communication revolves around reproductive behavior. For example, male redwinged blackbirds use their brightly colored red-and-white shoulder patches to advertise their territory ownership to potential mates and rivals. An experiment with zebra finches found that females were more likely to choose mates if the identification bands on their legs were red rather than some other color. Across species, communication is usually threatening: Warning (or aposematic) coloration is a method used by animals with stings or poison to circumvent attacks. For example, stinging insects like wasps and bees use similar color patterns of yellow and black to advertise their arsenal. Poison dart frogs (family Dendrobatidae) also use bright coloration in this way. Dull or camouflage coloration (as in a flounder) is an alternative strategy. By hiding, these species hope to avoid predation.


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