Conspicuous coloration is often used in combination with chemical defenses to deter predators from attacking. Experimental studies have shown that the avoidance inducing effect of conspicuous prey coloration increases with increasing size of pattern elements and with increasing body size. Here we use a comparative approach to test the prediction from these findings, namely that conspicuous coloration will evolve in tandem with body size. In our analysis, we use a previously published mitochondrial DNA-based phylogeny and comparative analysis of independent contrasts to examine if evolutionary shifts in color pattern have been associated with evolutionary changes in body size in aposematic poison frogs (Anura: Dendrobatidae). Information on body size (snout to vent length) and coloration were obtained from the literature. Two different measures of conspicuousness were used, one based on rankings by human observers and the other based on computer analysis of digitized photographs. The results from comparative analyses using either measure of coloration indicated that avoidance inducing coloration and body size have evolved in concert in poison frogs. Results from reconstruction of character change further indicate that the correlated evolution of size and coloration has involved changes in both directions within each of the different clades of the phylogenetic tree. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that selection imposed by visually guided predators has promoted the evolution of larger body size in species with conspicuous coloration, or enhanced evolution of conspicuous coloration in larger species.
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Vol. 57 • No. 12