Coral-snake pattern recognition and stimulus generalisation by naive great kiskadees (Aves: Tyrannidae)

Abstract

THE neotropical coral-snake complex with its contrasting ringed patterns includes true coral snakes, for example, the highly venomous elapid genus Micrurus, and many colubrids that are either less strongly venomous or non-venomous1. Whether or not this complex involves Batesian and/or Müllerian mimicry has been widely debated2–5. Wickler1 suggested that if mimicry depends on predator learning, true coral snakes are too deadly to be models; rather, they are mimics of the less dangerous colubrids of the complex (Mertensian mimicry). He also claimed that there was no evidence that any predator could recognise a coral snake innately1. I have shown that Costa Rican turquoise-browed motmots (Emomota superciliosa) need no learning to show strong aversion to a pattern of wide yellow and narrow red rings6; this I have interpreted as an innate recognition of a generalised coral-snake pattern. No Costa Rican member of the coral-snake complex has wider yellow than red rings, however, so I had no proof that the motmots were not simply showing an aversion to a general aposematic pattern. I present here evidence that another avian predator needs no learning to avoid not only a pattern of wide yellow and red rings, but also the most common local Micrurus pattern of red, yellow and black rings.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Wickler, W., Mimicry in Plants and Animals (World University Library, London. 1968).

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Dunn, E. R., Evolution, 8, 97–102 (1954).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Brattstrom, B. H., Evolution, 9, 217–219 (1955).

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Greene, H. W., and Pyburn, W. R., Biologist, 55, 144–148 (1973).

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Hecht, M. K., and Marien, D. J. Morph., 98, 335–366 (1956).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Smith, S. M., Science, 187, 759–760 (1975).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Taylor, E. H., Kans. Univ. Sci. Bull., 34, 1–188 (1951).

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Slud, P., Bull. Am. Mus. nat. Hist., 128, 1–430 (1964).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Coppinger, R. P., Am. Nat., 104, 323–335 (1970).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Rettenmeyer, C. W., A. Rev. Ent., 15, 43–74 (1970).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Brower, L. P., Brower, J. V. Z., and Collins, C. T., Zoologica, N. Y., 48, 65–84 (1963).

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Brower, L. P., Alcock, J., and Brower, J. V. Z., in Ecological Genetics and Evolution (edit. by Creed, R.), 261–274 (Blackwell, Oxford, 1971).

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Otte, D., A. Rev. Ecol. Syst., 5, 385–417 (1974).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

SMITH, S. Coral-snake pattern recognition and stimulus generalisation by naive great kiskadees (Aves: Tyrannidae). Nature 265, 535–536 (1977). https://doi.org/10.1038/265535a0

Download citation

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing