Illustration of Aposematism

1890 Aposematism

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Alfred Russel Wallace, Edward Bagnall Poulton evolution Illustration of Aposematism


Bright colors warn; fangs warn; snarls menace. People assumed bright colors attract predators. Alfred Russel Wallace first suggested warning coloration warned predators. Edward Bagnall Poulton coined the term from the Greek words apo, away and sema, sign.

Danger signs

Octogonal red stop signs; triangular yields; cars flashing and honking; appliances beep; efforts to improve safety create a landscape of danger signs.

Doctor Faustus

Clearwing butterflies disappear, petals in the wind. Leaf butterflies fold their wings to hide as leaves. Ineditable butterflies advertise with colors and heavy flight and editable butterflies mimic the ineditable ones. Mussels from Caledonia decorate their shells with an ancient indecipherable script. Ice crystals assume the shape of ferns and flowers and seek the light just as any in the vegetable kingdom. Drops of oil shape themselves to devour a substance just as animals, amœbae, reach for nourishment.

Don’t tread on me

Conspicuous humans smear mud on their faces to blend into the jungle. Red and yellow, black and white, contrast nicely with green folliage, to signal do not mess with us.

Alfred Russel Wallace conceieved the theory of evolution by natural selection independently, which convinced Darwin to end his reluctance to publish On the Origin of Species.

Chapter III of Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus explores instances of mimicry to show the mystical connection between the animate and inanimate kingdoms.

See also in The book of science:

Readings in wikipedia: