Research Output
Avian predators taste reject mimetic prey in relation to their signal reliability
  Aposematic organisms defend themselves through various means to increase their unprofitability to predators which they advertise with conspicuous warning signals. Predators learn to avoid aposematic prey through associative learning that leads to lower predation. However, when these visual signals become unreliable (e.g., through automimicry or Batesian mimicry), predators may switch from using visual signals to taste sampling prey to choose among them. In this experiment, we tested this possibility in a field experiment where we released a total of 4800 mealworm prey in two clusters consisting of either: (i) undefended prey (injected with water) and (ii) model-mimics (injected with either quinine sulphate [models] or water [mimics]). Prey were deployed at 12 sites, with the mimic frequency of the model-mimics ranging between 0 and 1 (at 0.2 intervals). We found that taste rejection peaked at moderate mimic frequencies (0.4 and 0.6), supporting the idea that taste sampling and rejection of prey is related to signal reliability and predator uncertainty. This is the first time that taste-rejection has been shown to be related to the reliability of prey signals in a mimetic prey system.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    11 February 2022

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    Nature Publishing Group

  • DOI:


  • Funders:

    Guangxi Provincial Department of Science and Technology


He, R., Pagani-Núñez, E., Goodale, E., & Barnett, C. (2022). Avian predators taste reject mimetic prey in relation to their signal reliability. Scientific Reports, 12(1), Article 2334.


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