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Müllerian mimicry, where two unpalatable species share a warning pattern, is classically believed to be a form of mutualism, where the species involved share the cost of predator education. The evolutionary dynamics of Müllerian mimicry have recently become a controversial subject, after mathematical models have shown that if minor alterations are made to assumptions about the way in which predators learn and forget about unpalatable prey, this textbook case of mutualism may not be mutualistic at all. An underlying assumption of these models is that Müllerian mimics possess the same defence chemical. However, some Müllerian mimics are known to possess different defence chemicals. Using domestic chicks as predators and coloured crumbs flavoured with either the same or different unpalatable chemicals as prey, we provide evidence that two defence chemicals can interact to enhance predator learning and memory. This indicates that Müllerian mimics that possess different defence chemicals are better protected than those that share a single defence chemical. These data provide insight into how multiple defence chemicals are perceived by birds, and how they influence the way birds learn and remember warningly coloured prey. They highlight the importance of considering how different toxins in mimicry rings can interact in the evolution and maintenance of Müllerian mimicry and could help to explain the remarkable variation in chemical defences found within and between species. © 2005 The Royal Society.
Author(s): Skelhorn J, Rowe C
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
ISSN (print): 0962-8436
ISSN (electronic): 1471-2970
Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing
PubMed id: 15705561
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