Warning colouration in pseudocerotid flatworms (Platyhelminthes, Polycladida). A preliminary study

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Abstract

Many species of tropical and subtropical pseudocerotid flatworms are noted for their brilliant colour patterns and conspicuous behaviour and are suitable candidates for the investigation of aposematic colouration. This study gives the first experimental evidence of aposematic colouration in pseudocerotid flatworms. Coloured and uncoloured agar models of flatworms were used to determine whether a fish predator, the moon wrasse Thalassoma lunare, could learn to avoid colourful flatworms on the basis of their colour pattern. The results showed that uncoloured models were more significantly attacked than coloured models (1% significance) and that there was no significant difference between attacks made to live flatworms and their respective models. These results clearly indicate the operation of aposematism in brightly coloured flatworms and demonstrate the operation of mimicry as the agar models were essentially non-living mimics of the flatworms.

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