The protective value of the colour and shape of the mountain katydid's antipredator defence

Publication Name

Journal of Evolutionary Biology


Deimatic behaviour is performed by prey when attacked by predators as part of an antipredator strategy. The behaviour is part of a sequence that consists of several defences, for example they can be preceded by camouflage and followed by a hidden putatively aposematic signal that is only revealed when the deimatic behaviour is performed. When displaying their hidden signal, mountain katydids (Acripeza reticulata) hold their wings vertically, exposing striking red and black stripes with blue spots and oozing an alkaloid-rich chemical defence derived from its Senecio diet. Understanding differences and interactions between deimatism and aposematism has proven problematic, so in this study we isolated the putative aposematic signal of the mountain katydid's antipredator strategy to measure its survival value in the absence of their deimatic behaviour. We manipulated two aspects of the mountain katydid's signal, colour pattern and whole body shape during display. We deployed five kinds of clay models, one negative control and four katydid-like treatments, in 15 grids across part of the mountain katydid's distribution to test the hypothesis that their hidden signal is aposematic. If this hypothesis holds true, we expected that the models, which most closely resembled real katydids would be attacked the least. Instead, we found that models that most closely resembled real katydids were the most likely to be attacked. We suggest several ideas to explain these results, including that the deimatic phase of the katydid's display, the change from a camouflaged state to exposing its hidden signal, may have important protective value.

Open Access Status

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Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Linnean Society of NSW



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