EDIT I want to understand the reason for intense animal colors. I.e. I don't want to understand the variety of the colors, just the intensity.

The Wikipedia page for Cethosia biblis says, the intense colors are a "warning" to enemies, which means the enemy is warned by the colors that eating that butterfly may result in death.

[...], while the intense color of the dorsal sides of the wings is a warning to predators that the Red Lacewing has a bad taste, deriving from the poisonous host plants of the caterpillars.

In general it would make sense to me, that animals have learned something like "intense colors means danger". Although, I don't know how good animals recognize colors, but that would be another question.

But poisonous animals don't have necessarily intense colors. E.g. Sydney funnel web spider is very poisonous, but doesn't have intense colors, while on the other side some very intense colored butterflies are not poisonous like explained here. As a result, the explanation given in the wikipedia article doesn't make sense to me. I estimate it very unlikely, that animals learned something like "intense colors means danger", because there are of course examples where this is not true.

Therefore, I don't think the "Golden poison frog" has survived because his enemies recognize his intense colors and conclude "eating this frog will result in death" are hence hesitated to eat him.

My question is: Why does wikipedia say then, the intense colors of Cethosia biblis are a warning for their enemies?

PS: I just found the correct terms for my thoughts ("aposematism" and "batesian mimicry" and are reading now the appropriate wikipedia article. I didn't knew them when I've asked this question.

PPS: to avoid confusion: @DavidBlomstrom answered this version of my question https://biology.stackexchange.com/revisions/42554/2

  • $\begingroup$ The question is hard to understand because it is a a bit poorly phrased. I would advice that you 1) start you sentences with capitalized letters. 2) Introduce a quotation before actually quoting. 3) Clarify the intention behind the use of " around the term "warning signal" or just remove them. 4) Clarify what you mean by "warning signal" 5) Don't use ==> but use language to express causation. 6) Clarify what you mean by "survival of the scar" 7) Use capitalized I for the first person in singular. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Jan 23 '16 at 0:32
  • $\begingroup$ 8) Make sure you make sentences. For example this: I mean, i doubt a simple "survival of the scar", because of the colorful, but not poisonous animals. is not a sentence. Being ESL (which I also am) might not help. I am voting to close as unclear. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Jan 23 '16 at 0:33
  • $\begingroup$ While I don't understand the question I suppose that your question (assuming you know what you really want to ask) is very broad and is something Why are there so many colors?. As you are talking about toxic animals, you might want to focus on them and try to understand why they are colorful. Btw, poisonous and toxic are not synonym. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Jan 23 '16 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ thanks for the feedback, i've updated my question accordingly. @Remi.b why are "poisonous" and "toxic" not synonym? The cambridge dictionary lists "poisonous" as alternative term for toxic. $\endgroup$ – toogley Jan 23 '16 at 9:36

I could be misreading your question, but it doesn't sound very specific. Rather, it sounds like you're asking "How can I make sense of all the various color schemes employed by venomous species?" So I'll take a stab at it...

Animal coloration is a very complex phenomenon, with a number of overlapping physiological traits, evolutionary strategies, etc.

Consider the famous relationship between the monarch and viceroy butterflies, which bear a striking similarity. The viceroy was long regarded as a harmless insect that predators avoided because it resembled the monarch, which many predators find non-appetizing.

More recently, it was proposed that the viceroy is also unpalatable. Thus, the similar color patterns may simply reinforce each other. (Mutual Mimicry: Viceroy and Monarch)

But that's just one isolated example of a bewildering spectrum of color schemes. Some animals apparently use bright colors as a warning - "I'm toxic!" - while other venomous species may be dull colored for whatever reason. A dull-colored species may use its venom to capture prey, which it captures in ambush; thus, it has evolved camouflage, rather than conspicuous colors.

Coloration is also about more than warning. Coloration can serve as a means of communication. It can help a member of a species recognize fellow members. Bright colors are very popular in mating rituals.

So you have all these overlapping traits and countless unique evolutionary experiments interwoven into a can of worms.

One example that comes to mind is venomous snakes native to the United States. The rattlesnake and cottonmouth are pretty drab-colored and generally well camouflaged. Of course, rattlesnakes warn potential enemies with their famous rattles. I think the cottonmouth can be considered fairly drab colored as well.

However, the coral snake has a very vivid and distinctive color pattern. And there are snakes that bear a remarkably resemblance to coral snakes (see some examples).

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer, especially for the two links. :) Along with the wikipedia articles, i've just found (for Aposematism and Batesian mimicry), my question is basically solved. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – toogley Jan 23 '16 at 9:50

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