Behaviour 2019
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Habitat disturbance alters color contrast and detectability in cryptic and aposematic poison frogs
James B. Barnett1, Brandon J. Varela2, Ben J. Jennings3, David Lesbarrčres4, Jonathan N. Pruitt1, David M. Green2. 1McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada; 2McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada; 3Brunel University London, London, , United Kingdom; 4Laurentian University, Sudbury, ON, Canada

Animals can use color to defend themselves in many different ways, including hiding their presence and signaling their defenses. These cryptic and conspicuous color patterns evolve under the influence of the environment in which they are viewed. However, as human activity changes these habitats, this relationship between animal color and background characteristics may be disrupted. We examined how the detectability of cryptic and aposematic poison frogs differed between patches of natural and disturbed habitat in Panama. We studied the Beige-Striped Brown Allobates talamancae and two color forms of Oophaga pumilio: Black-Spotted Green and Black-Spotted Red. We found that human-induced changes to the environment affected frog detectability, but different color forms were affected in different ways. We found that in the disturbed area, A. talamancae were more conspicuous, green O. pumilio were more cryptic, but the detectability of red O. pumilio did not change. Consequently, absolute and rank order detectability differed between the sites. Such changes to apparent prey availability may have implications for prey survival and affect predator decision making.