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The striking bright blues, yellows, and oranges of poison dart frogs are a classic example of warning coloration, sending a message to predators to stay away. But somewhat counterintuitively, these conspicuous colors may be helping the frogs hide in plain sight, according to a new study.
The dyeing poison frog (Dendrobates tinctorius) lives on the forest floor in the lowland tropical rainforests of South America’s Guiana Shield, an ancient geological formation underlying the northeastern coast and parts of Venezuela and Brazil. The frogs are blue-black with a bright yellow ring around their head and back, which may be broken or joined to form a figure eight. Like a fingerprint, the pattern is unique to each frog.
Predators - Frogs - Naïve - Predators - Warning
Predators generally learn that such brightly colored frogs are toxic and avoid them. But this doesn’t always work. Naïve predators ignore the warning, whereas some birds and snakes seem to be able to eat poisonous frogs with few ill effects.
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So researchers wondered whether poison dart frogs have another way of protecting themselves—camouflage. To find out, they first tested computational models of predator vision on...
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