Deimatic behaviour

Deimatic behaviour or startle display[1] means any pattern of bluffing behaviour in an animal that lacks strong defences, such as suddenly displaying conspicuous eyespots, to scare off or momentarily distract a predator, thus giving the prey animal an opportunity to escape.[2][3] The term deimatic or dymantic originates from the Greek δειματόω (deimatόo), meaning "to frighten".[4][5]

Deimatic display occurs in widely separated groups of animals, including moths, butterflies, mantises and phasmids among the insects. In the cephalopods, different species of octopuses,[6] squids, cuttlefish and the paper nautilus are deimatic.

Displays are classified as deimatic or aposematic by the responses of the animals that see them. Where predators are initially startled but learn to eat the displaying prey, the display is classed as deimatic, and the prey is bluffing; where they continue to avoid the prey after tasting it, the display is taken as aposematic, meaning the prey is genuinely distasteful. However, these categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive. It is possible for a behaviour to be both deimatic and aposematic, if it both startles a predator and indicates the presence of anti-predator adaptations.

Vertebrates including several species of frog put on warning displays; some of these species have poison glands. Among the mammals, deimatic displays are found in species with strong defences, such as in foul-smelling skunks and spiny porcupines. Such displays are often combined with warning coloration. Thus these displays in both frogs and mammals are at least in part aposematic.

Spirama helicina-W-Thailand7810
Spirama helicina resembling the face of a snake in a deimatic or bluffing display

In insects

Threat displays are not always deimatic bluff. Some stick insects spray the monoterpene chemical dolichodial when attacked, so their displays are honest aposematism.
Notodontidae - Cerura vinula
A puss moth (Cerura vinula) caterpillar displaying its two flagella on its tail and red patches on its head. If the threat doesn't retreat, the caterpillar can fire formic acid from its flagella.

Deimatic displays are made by insects including the praying mantises (Mantidae) and stick insects (Phasmatodea). While undisturbed, these insects are usually well camouflaged. When disturbed by a potential predator, they suddenly reveal their hind wings, which are brightly coloured. In mantises, the wing display is sometimes reinforced by showing brightly coloured front legs, and accompanied by a loud hissing sound created by stridulation. For example, the grasshopper Phymateus displays red and yellow areas on its hind wings; it is also aposematic, producing a distasteful secretion from its thorax.[3] Similarly the threat display of the walking stick phasmid (Peruphasma schultei) is not a bluff: the insect sprays defensive dolichodial-like monoterpene chemical compounds at attackers.[7]

Among moths with deimatic behaviour, the eyed hawkmoth (Smerinthus ocellatus) displays its large eyespots, moving them slowly as if it were a vertebrate predator such as an owl.[3] Among butterflies, the peacock butterfly Aglais io is a cryptic leaf mimic with wings closed, but displays 4 conspicuous eyespots when disturbed, in a display effective against insectivorous birds (flycatchers).[8]

An experiment by the Australian zoologist A. D. Blest demonstrated that the more an eyespot resembled a real vertebrate eye in both colour and pattern, the more effective it was in scaring off insectivorous birds. In another experiment using peacock butterflies, Blest showed that when the conspicuous eyespots had been rubbed off, insectivorous birds (yellow buntings) were much less effectively frightened off, and therefore both the sudden appearance of colour, and the actual eyespot pattern, contribute to the effectiveness of the deimatic display.[3]

Some noctuid moths, such as the large red underwing (Catocala nupta), are cryptic at rest, but display a flash of startlingly bright colours when disturbed.[9] Others, such as many species of genus Speiredonia and Spirama, look threatening while at rest. Also saturniid moths of the genera Attacus and Rothschildia display snake heads, but not from the frontal position.[10]

Many arctiid moths make clicks when hunted by echolocating bats; they also often contain unpalatable chemicals. Some such as dogbane tiger moths (Cycnia tenera) have ears and conspicuous coloration, and start to make clicks when echolocating bats approach. An experiment by Canadian zoologists John M. Ratcliffe and James H. Fullard, using dogbane tiger moths and northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis), suggests the signals in fact both disrupt echolocation and warn of chemical defence. The behaviour of these insects is thus both deimatic and aposematic.[11]

Flügel Peruphasma schultei

Deimatic display of the phasmid Peruphasma schultei

Haaniella dehaanii-subadult threaten female

Threat pose of the phasmid Haaniella dehaanii

Gottesanbeterin Abwehr

An adult female Mediterranean mantis, Iris oratoria, in threat pose

Smerinthus ocellatus MHNT Female dos

Female eyed hawkmoth, Smerinthus ocellatus, mounted to show the large eyespots

Inachis io bottom side

Peacock butterfly, Inachis io is a cryptic leaf mimic when its wings are closed

Watching you watching me - - 235513

Peacock butterfly displays startling eyespots.

Speiredonia spectans

Speiredonia spectans resting mimicking a brooding head

Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii defence

Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii flashing its wings in deimatic pose

Gray plate8.jpeg

A fine large "Phasma" illustrated by George Robert Gray in 1833, showing cryptic resting pose and dramatic wing flash

In arachnids

Both spiders and scorpions are venomous, so their threat displays can be considered generally aposematic. However, some predators such as hedgehogs and spider-hunting wasps (Pompilidae) actively hunt arachnids, overcoming their defences, so when a hedgehog is startled by, for instance, the sounds made by a scorpion, there is reason to describe the display as deimatic.[12]

Spiders make use of a variety of different threat displays. Some such as Argiope and Pholcus make themselves and their webs vibrate rapidly when they are disturbed; this blurs their outline and perhaps makes them look larger, as well as more difficult to locate precisely for an attack.[13] Mygalomorphae spiders such as tarantulas exhibit deimatic behaviour; when threatened, the spider rears back with its front legs and pedipalps spread and fangs bared. Some species, such as the dangerous Indian ornamental tree spider (Poecilotheria regalis) have bright colouring on the front legs and mouthparts which are shown off in its threat display when it "rears up on its hind legs, and brandishes the fore limbs and palpi in the air".[14]

Scorpions perform non-bluffing threat displays, as they have powerful defences, but various predators still eat them. When provoked, they spread their pincers and in some cases raise their abdomens, their tails standing near-erect with the sting ready for immediate use. Some scorpions in addition produce deimatic noises by stridulating with the pedipalps and first legs.[12]

Tarantula, Attacking Position, Photo by Sascha Grabow

Aposematic threat display of Brazilian tarantula

Female Poecilotheria regalis, ventral shot

Belly of the spider Poecilotheria regalis. The bright yellow forelegs are used in deimatic displays.


Scorpion's threat display with pincers spread wide, abdomen raised to present sting.

In cephalopods

Octopus macropus
Deimatic display: Callistoctopus macropus generates a bright brownish red colour with white oval spots when disturbed.

Deimatic behaviour is found in cephalopods including the common cuttlefish Sepia officinalis, squid such as the Caribbean reef squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea) and bigfin reef squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana), octopuses[15] including the common octopus Octopus vulgaris and the Atlantic white-spotted octopus (Octopus macropus), and the paper nautilus (Argonauta argo). Deimatic cephalopod displays involve suddenly creating bold stripes, often reinforced by stretching out the animal's arms, fins or web to make it look as big and threatening as possible.[16]

For example, in the common cuttlefish the display consists of flattening the body, making the skin pale, showing a pair of eyespots on the mantle, dark eye rings, and a dark line on the fins, and dilating the pupils of the eyes.[16] The common octopus similarly displays pale skin and dark eye rings with dilated pupils, but also curls its arms and stretches out the web between the arms as far as possible, and squirts out jets of water.[16] Other octopuses such as Atlantic white-spotted octopus turn bright brownish red with oval white spots all over in a high contrast display.[16][17] The paper nautilus can rapidly change its appearance: it suddenly withdraws the shining iridescent web formed by its first pair of arms from its shell.[16]

In vertebrates

Chlamydosaurus kingii
Frilled lizard faces predators, making itself look big with head frills, raising its body and waving its tail.

Among vertebrates, the Australian frilled lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii) has a startling display in which wide semicircular frills on either side of the head are fanned out; the mouth is opened wide exposing the gape; the tail is waved over the body, and the body is raised, so that the animal appears as large and threatening as possible.[18]

Frogs such as Physalaemus nattereri, Physalaemus deimaticus, and Pleurodema brachyops have a warning display behaviour. These animals inflate themselves with air and raise their hind parts to appear as large as possible, and display brightly coloured markings and eyespots to intimidate predators. Seven species of frogs in the genus Pleurodema have lumbar glands (making the animals distasteful, so in their case the display is likely aposematic); these glands are usually boldly contrasted in black as a further warning.[19]

Non-bluffing (aposematic) displays occur in mammals which possess powerful defences such as spines or stink glands, and which habitually warn off potential predators rather than attempting escape by running. The lowland streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) raises the spines on its head and back when confronted by a predator, and moves its head up and down. Porcupines such as Erethizon erect their long sharp quills and adopt a hunched, head-down posture when a predator is nearby. The spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) balances on its front legs, its body raised vertically with its bold pelage pattern conspicuously displayed, and its tail (near the scent glands) raised and spread out.[20]

Chamaeleo namaquensis (Namib-Naukluft, 2011)

Namaqua chameleon showing threat display with dewlap

Pleurodema brachyops

Colombian four-eyed frog, Pleurodema brachyops.

Lowland Streaked Tenrec, Mantadia, Madagascar

Lowland streaked tenrec, Hemicentetes semispinosus erects spines on head and body when threatened.

1Puchacz obronna poza

Eurasian eagle owl, Bubo bubo, erects the feathers on its neck to make itself appear larger

Striped Skunk Big Bend NP

Striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis, displays prominent lighter markings against black, with raised bushy tail, honestly advertising its squirting scent glands.

Deimatic or aposematic?

In a study of the rattling made by rattlesnakes of different species, the Canadian zoologists Brock Fenton and Lawrence Licht found that the sounds are always similar: they have rapid onset (starting suddenly, and reaching full volume in a few milliseconds); they consist of a "broadband" mixture of frequencies between 2 kHz and 20 kHz, with little energy either in the ultrasonic (above 20 kHz) or in the rattlesnakes' hearing range (below 700 Hz); and the frequencies do not change much with time (the rattling after 2 minutes having a similar spectrum to that at onset). There was no clear difference in the sounds made by the different species measured: Crotalus horridus, Crotalus adamanteus, Crotalus atrox, Crotalus cerastes, Crotalus viridis and Sistrurus catenatus. This pattern implies that the rattling "could serve as a general attention-getting device", which "is designed as a deimatic or startle display". Its similarity to the "broadband, harsh sounds" used as warning calls by birds and mammals may enhance its effectiveness. Since rattlesnakes can barely hear the sound, it is unlikely to serve as any form of communication to other snakes of the same species. Finally, the sounds are not in themselves loud enough to cause pain and hence keep predators away.[21]

Fenton and Licht note that the effect of a rattlesnake's rattling could be deimatic (startle) in inexperienced animals, whether predators or large animals that might injure the snake by stepping on it, but aposematic (a warning signal) in animals that are aware of the rattle's meaning.[21] They refer to the work of Fenton and his colleague David Bates on the responses of the big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus, to the defensive clicks made by moths in the family Arctiidae, which includes the garden tiger moth, Arctia caja. This family includes large, furry, bitter-tasting or poisonous moths. They found that while sounds can startle inexperienced bats, after a few trials the bats ignored the sounds if the prey was edible; but the same sounds can warn experienced bats of bitter-tasting prey (an honest signal).[22]

Rattlesnake Mivart

Rattlesnake raising rattle on tail, drawn by St. George Mivart, On The Genesis of Species, 1871. The rattle may both startle inexperienced predators and warn off experienced ones.

Arctia caja 2010

Garden tiger moth, Arctia caja, displays startling bright pattern of black spots on orange-red hindwings. The insect is bitter-tasting, so the pattern may be aposematic as well as deimatic.

See also


  1. ^ Startle Display. Elsevier. Retrieved 17 December 2016
  2. ^ Stevens, Martin (2005). "The role of eyespots as anti-predator mechanisms, principally demonstrated in the Lepidoptera". Biological Reviews. 80 (4): 573–588. doi:10.1017/S1464793105006810. PMID 16221330.
  3. ^ a b c d Edmunds, Malcolm (2012). "Deimatic Behavior". Springer. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  4. ^ Umbers, Kate D.L.; Lehtonen, Jussi; Mappes, Johanna (2015). "Deimatic displays". Current Biology. 25 (2): R58–59. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2014.11.011. PMID 25602301.
  5. ^ "δειματόω frighten". Greek Word Study Tool. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  6. ^ Smith, Ian (3 December 2012). "Octopus vulgaris. Dymantic display". The Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  7. ^ Dossey, Aaron Todd (2006). Chemical Biodiversity And Signaling: Detailed Analysis Of Fmrfamide-Like Neuropeptides And Other Natural Products By Nmr And Bioinformatics. University of Florida (PhD Thesis).
  8. ^ Merilaita, Sami; Vallin, Adrian; Kodandaramaiah, Ullasa; Dimitrova, Marina; Ruuskanen, Suvi; Laaksonen, Toni (26 July 2011). "Behavioral Ecology". Number of Eyespots and Their Intimidating Effect on Naïve Predators in the Peacock Butterfly. 22 (6): 1326–1331. doi:10.1093/beheco/arr135. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  9. ^ Gullan and Cranston, 2010. p 370.
  10. ^ Edmunds, Malcolm (2005). Deimatic behavior. Encyclopedia of Entomology. p. 677. doi:10.1007/0-306-48380-7_1185. ISBN 978-0-7923-8670-4.
  11. ^ Ratcliffe, John M.; Fullard, James H. (2005). "The adaptive function of tiger moth clicks against echolocating bats: an experimental and synthetic approach" (PDF). Journal of Experimental Biology. 208 (Pt 24): 4689–4698. doi:10.1242/jeb.01927. PMID 16326950.
  12. ^ a b Edwards, 1974. pp. 158–159
  13. ^ Edwards, 1974. p. 159
  14. ^ Cott, 1940. p. 215
  15. ^ Gleadall, Ian G. (2004). "Interdisciplinary Information Sciences" (PDF). Interdisciplinary Information Sciences. 10 (2): 99–112. doi:10.4036/iis.2004.99.
  16. ^ a b c d e Hanlon and Messenger, 1998. pp 80–81.
  17. ^ Wigton, Rachel; Wood, James B. "Marine Invertebrates of Bermuda". Grass octopus (Octopus macropus). Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  18. ^ Cott, 1940. p. 218.
  19. ^ Martins, Marcio (1989). "Deimatic Behavior in Pleuroderma brachyops" (PDF). Journal of Herpetology. 23 (3): 305–307. doi:10.2307/1564457. JSTOR 1564457.
  20. ^ Marks, 1987. pp 70–74, and Figure 3.9 based on Edmunds 1974.
  21. ^ a b Fenton, M. Brock; Licht, Lawrence E (September 1990). "Why Rattle Snake?". Journal of Herpetology. 24 (3): 274. doi:10.2307/1564394. JSTOR 1564394.
  22. ^ Bates, David L; Fenton, M. Brock (1990). "Aposematism or startle? Predators learn their responses to the defenses of prey". Canadian Journal of Zoology. 68 (1): 49–52. doi:10.1139/z90-009.


  • Cott, Hugh B. (1940). Adaptive Coloration in Animals. London: Methuen.
  • Edmunds, Malcolm (1974). Defence in Animals. Longman. ISBN 978-0-582-44132-3.
  • Edmunds, Malcolm (2008). "Deimatic Behavior". In Capinera, John L. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Entomology. Springer. ISBN 9781402062421.
  • Gullan, P. J.; Cranston, P. S. (2010). Secondary Lines of Defense. The Insects: An Outline of Entomology. John Wiley - Blackwell. p. 370. ISBN 9781444317671.
  • Hanlon, Roger T.; Messenger, John B (1998). Cephalopod Behaviour. Different expressions of deimatic behaviour in cephalopods. Cambridge University Press. p. 80. ISBN 9780521645836.
  • Marks, Isaac Meyer (1987). Fears, Phobias, and Rituals: The Nature of Anxiety and Panic Disorders. Oxford University Press. pp. 70–74.
  • McFarland, David (2006). "Deimatic display". A Dictionary of Animal Behaviour. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780198607212.001.0001. ISBN 9780198607212.
  • Ruxton, Graeme D.; Sherratt, Thomas N.; Speed, Michael P. (2004). Avoiding Attack: The evolutionary ecology of crypsis, warning signals and mimicry. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-852860-9.
Agalychnis callidryas

For another species commonly known as the red-eyed treefrog, see Litoria chloris

Agalychnis callidryas, known as the red-eyed treefrog, is an arboreal hylid native to Neotropical rainforests where it ranges from Mexico, through Central America, to Colombia. It is sometimes kept in captivity. The scientific name of the red-eyed treefrog, A. callidryas, comes from Greek words kalos (beautiful) and dryas (a tree or wood nymph).

Callistoctopus macropus

Callistoctopus macropus, also known as the Atlantic white-spotted octopus, white-spotted octopus, grass octopus or grass scuttle, is a species of octopus found in shallow areas of the Mediterranean Sea, the warmer parts of the eastern and western Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Indo-Pacific region. This octopus feeds on small organisms which lurk among the branches of corals.

Cascade effect (ecology)

An ecological cascade effect is a series of secondary extinctions that is triggered by the primary extinction of a key species in an ecosystem. Secondary extinctions are likely to occur when the threatened species are: dependent on a few specific food sources, mutualistic (dependent on the key species in some way), or forced to coexist with an invasive species that is introduced to the ecosystem. Species introductions to a foreign ecosystem can often devastate entire communities, and even entire ecosystems. These exotic species monopolize the ecosystem's resources, and since they have no natural predators to decrease their growth, they are able to increase indefinitely. Olsen et al. showed that exotic species have caused lake and estuary ecosystems to go through cascade effects due to loss of algae, crayfish, mollusks, fish, amphibians, and birds. However, the principal cause of cascade effects is the loss of top predators as the key species. As a result of this loss, a dramatic increase (ecological release) of prey species occurs. The prey is then able to overexploit its own food resources, until the population numbers decrease in abundance, which can lead to extinction. When the prey's food resources disappear, they starve and may go extinct as well. If the prey species is herbivorous, then their initial release and exploitation of the plants may result in a loss of plant biodiversity in the area. If other organisms in the ecosystem also depend upon these plants as food resources, then these species may go extinct as well. An example of the cascade effect caused by the loss of a top predator is apparent in tropical forests. When hunters cause local extinctions of top predators, the predators' prey's population numbers increase, causing an overexploitation of a food resource and a cascade effect of species loss. Recent studies have been performed on approaches to mitigate extinction cascades in food-web networks.

Cat senses

Cat senses are adaptations that allow cats to be highly efficient predators. Cats are good at detecting movement in low light, have an acute sense of hearing and smell, and their sense of touch is enhanced by long whiskers that protrude from their heads and bodies. These senses evolved to allow cats to hunt effectively at night.

Dazzled and Deceived

Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage is a 2009 book on camouflage and mimicry, in nature and military usage, by the science writer and journalist Peter Forbes. It covers the history of these topics from the 19th century onwards, describing the discoveries of Henry Walter Bates, Alfred Russel Wallace and Fritz Müller, especially their studies of butterflies in the Amazon. The narrative also covers 20th-century military camouflage, begun by the painter Abbot Thayer who advocated disruptive coloration and countershading and continued in the First World War by the zoologist John Graham Kerr and the marine artist Norman Wilkinson, who developed dazzle camouflage. In the Second World War, the leading expert was Hugh Cott, who advised the British army on camouflage in the Western Desert.

The book was well received by critics, both military historians and biologists, and won the 2011 Warwick Prize for Writing.

Deception in animals

Deception in animals is the transmission of misinformation by one animal to another, of the same or different species, in a way that propagates beliefs that are not true. Deception in animals does not automatically imply a conscious act, but can occur at different levels of cognitive ability.

Mimicry and camouflage enable animals to appear to be other than they are. Prey animals may appear as predators, or vice versa; both predators and prey may be hard to see (crypsis), or may be mistaken for other objects (mimesis). In Batesian mimicry, harmless animals may appear to be distasteful or poisonous. In automimicry, animals may have eyespots in less important parts of the body than the head, helping to distract attack and increase the chance of survival.

In more active forms of anti-predator adaptation, animals may feign death when they detect a predator, or may quickly conceal themselves or take action to distract a predator, such as when a cephalopod releases ink. In deimatic behaviour, a harmless animal adopts a threatening pose or displays startling, brightly coloured parts of its body to startle a predator or rival.

Some animals may use tactical deception, with behaviour that is deployed in a way that other animals misinterpret what is happening to the advantage of the agent. Some of the evidence for this is anecdotal, but in the great apes in particular, experimental studies in ethology suggest that deception is actively practised by some animals.


Dictyoptera (from Greek δίκτυον diktyon "net" and πτερόν pteron "wing") is an insect superorder that includes two extant orders of polyneopterous insects: the order Blattodea (termites and cockroaches together) and the order Mantodea (mantises), along with one extinct order, the Alienoptera. While all modern Dictyoptera have short ovipositors, the oldest fossils of Dictyoptera have long ovipositors, much like members of the Orthoptera.

Diprion pini

Diprion pini, the common pine sawfly, is a sawfly species in the genus Diprion. It is a serious pest of economic forestry, capable of defoliating large areas of pine forest. Since it feeds until late in the autumn, affected trees are weakened and often die in the subsequent winter. The species is found all across Europe, with outliers elsewhere. It affects the Scots pine, mountain pine, eastern white pine, radiata, Lodgepole pine and black pine. Scots pines are not generally killed by a single defoliation, but weakened trees may suffer increased attack by bark beetles, buprestid beetles, and pine weevils, which can kill trees, as can repeated defoliation.

Energy flow (ecology)

In ecology, energy flow, also called the calorific flow, refers to the flow of energy through a food chain, and is the focus of study in ecological energetics. In an ecosystem, ecologists seek to quantify the relative importance of different component species and feeding relationships.

A general energy flow scenario follows:

Solar energy is fixed by the photoautotrophs, called primary producers, like green plants. Primary consumers absorb most of the stored energy in the plant through digestion, and transform it into the form of energy they need, such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), through respiration. A part of the energy received by primary consumers, herbivores, is converted to body heat (an effect of respiration), which is radiated away and lost from the system. The loss of energy through body heat is far greater in warm-blooded animals, which must eat much more frequently than those that are cold-blooded. Energy loss also occurs in the expulsion of undigested food (egesta) by excretion or regurgitation.

Secondary consumers, carnivores, then consume the primary consumers, although omnivores also consume primary producers. Energy that had been used by the primary consumers for growth and storage is thus absorbed into the secondary consumers through the process of digestion. As with primary consumers, secondary consumers convert this energy into a more suitable form (ATP) during respiration. Again, some energy is lost from the system, since energy which the primary consumers had used for respiration and regulation of body temperature cannot be utilized by the secondary consumers.

Tertiary consumers, which may or may not be apex predators, then consume the secondary consumers, with some energy passed on and some lost, as with the lower levels of the food chain.

A final link in the food chain are decomposers which break down the organic matter of the tertiary consumers (or whichever consumer is at the top of the chain) and release nutrients into the soil. They also break down plants, herbivores and carnivores that were not eaten by organisms higher on the food chain, as well as the undigested food that is excreted by herbivores and carnivores. Saprotrophic bacteria and fungi are decomposers, and play a pivotal role in the nitrogen and carbon cycles.The energy is passed on from trophic level to trophic level and each time about 90% of the energy is lost, with some being lost as heat into the environment (an effect of respiration) and some being lost as incompletely digested food (egesta). Therefore, primary consumers get about 10% of the energy produced by autotrophs, while secondary consumers get 1% and tertiary consumers get 0.1%. This means the top consumer of a food chain receives the least energy, as a lot of the food chain's energy has been lost between trophic levels. This loss of energy at each level limits typical food chains to only four to six links.

Evolutionary ecology

Evolutionary ecology lies at the intersection of ecology and evolutionary biology. It approaches the study of ecology in a way that explicitly considers the evolutionary histories of species and the interactions between them. Conversely, it can be seen as an approach to the study of evolution that incorporates an understanding of the interactions between the species under consideration. The main subfields of evolutionary ecology are life history evolution, sociobiology (the evolution of social behavior), the evolution of inter specific relations (cooperation, predator–prey interactions, parasitism, mutualism) and the evolution of biodiversity and of communities.

Evolutionary ecology mostly considers two things: how interactions (both among species and between species and their physical environment) shape species through selection and adaptation, and the consequences of the resulting evolutionary change.


The Hemiptera or true bugs are an order of insects comprising some 50,000 to 80,000 species of groups such as the cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers, and shield bugs. They range in size from 1 mm (0.04 in) to around 15 cm (6 in), and share a common arrangement of sucking mouthparts. The name "true bugs" is sometimes limited to the suborder Heteroptera. Many insects commonly known as "bugs" belong to other orders; for example, the lovebug is a fly, while the May bug and ladybug are beetles.Most hemipterans feed on plants, using their sucking and piercing mouthparts to extract plant sap. Some are parasitic while others are predators that feed on other insects or small invertebrates. They live in a wide variety of habitats, generally terrestrial, though some species are adapted to life in or on the surface of fresh water. Hemipterans are hemimetabolous, with young nymphs that somewhat resemble adults. Many aphids are capable of parthenogenesis, producing young from unfertilised eggs; this helps them to reproduce extremely rapidly in favourable conditions.

Humans have interacted with the Hemiptera for millennia. Some species, including many aphids, are important agricultural pests, damaging crops by the direct action of sucking sap, but also harming them indirectly by being the vectors of serious viral diseases. Other species have been used for biological control of insect pests. Hemipterans have been cultivated for the extraction of the dyestuff cochineal (also known as carmine) and for shellac. The bed bug is a persistent parasite of humans. Cicadas have been used as food, and have appeared in literature from the Iliad in Ancient Greece.

Mesopredator release hypothesis

The mesopredator release hypothesis is an ecological theory used to describe the interrelated population dynamics between apex predators and mesopredators within an ecosystem, such that a collapsing population of the former results in dramatically-increased populations of the latter. This hypothesis describes the phenomenon of trophic cascade in specific terrestrial communities.

A mesopredator is a medium-sized, middle trophic level predator, which both preys and is preyed upon. Examples are raccoons, skunks, snakes, cownose rays, and small sharks.

Paradox of the plankton

In aquatic biology, the paradox of the plankton describes the situation in which a limited range of resources supports an unexpectedly wide range of plankton species, apparently flouting the competitive exclusion principle which holds that when two species compete for the same resource, one will be driven to extinction.

Physalaemus deimaticus

Physalaemus deimaticus is a species of frog in the family Leptodactylidae. It is endemic to Brazil and only known from its type locality in Jaboticatubas, Serra do Cipó, Minas Gerais. The specific name deimaticus is derived from Greek deimos fror "fear" and refers to the defensive display of this frog, probably aimed at scaring predators. Common names Jaboticatubas dwarf frog and frightening foam froglet have been coined for it.

Physalaemus nattereri

Physalaemus nattereri (common name: Cuyaba dwarf frog) is a frog native to central and southeastern Brazil and eastern Bolivia and Paraguay. It has two "false eyes" on its rear. The 3–4 cm frog lifts its rear end when threatened, startling predators. This trait is so dangerous and intimidating because, no matter if one is looking at the front or the back of the frog, it will always appear to be staring back. If a predator does not get fooled by the eyespots, and decides to move closer, the frog can produce an unpleasant secretion that comes from glands located in the eyespots. Similar display is known from Physalaemus deimaticus.

Productivity (ecology)

In ecology, productivity refers to the rate of generation of biomass in an ecosystem. It is usually expressed in units of mass per unit surface (or volume) per unit time, for instance grams per square metre per day (g m−2 d−1). The mass unit may relate to dry matter or to the mass of carbon generated. Productivity of autotrophs such as plants is called primary productivity, while that of heterotrophs such as animals is called secondary productivity.


Stotting (also called pronking or pronging) is a behavior of quadrupeds, particularly gazelles, in which they spring into the air, lifting all four feet off the ground simultaneously. Usually, the legs are held in a relatively stiff position and the back may be arched with the head pointing downward. Many explanations of stotting have been proposed; there is evidence that at least in some cases it is an honest signal to predators that the stotting animal would be difficult to catch.

Sustainable gardening

Sustainable gardening includes the more specific sustainable landscapes, sustainable landscape design, sustainable landscaping, sustainable landscape architecture, resulting in sustainable sites. It comprises a disparate group of horticultural interests that can share the aims and objectives associated with the international post-1980s sustainable development and sustainability programs developed to address the fact that humans are now using natural biophysical resources faster than they can be replenished by nature.Included within this compass are those home gardeners, and members of the landscape and nursery industries, and municipal authorities, that integrate environmental, social, and economic factors to create a more sustainable future.

Organic gardening and the use of native plants are integral to sustainable gardening.

Vision in toads

The neural basis of prey detection, recognition, and orientation was studied in depth by Jörg-Peter Ewert in a series of experiments that made the toad visual system a model system in neuroethology (neural basis of natural behavior). He began by observing the natural prey catching behavior of the common European toad (Bufo bufo).

Ewert's work with toads yielded several important discoveries (Ewert 1974, 2004). In general, his research revealed the specific neural circuits for recognition of complex visual stimuli. Specifically, he identified two main regions of the brain, the tectum and the thalamic-pretectal region, that were responsible for discriminating prey from non-prey and revealed the neural pathways that connected them. Furthermore, he found that the neural mechanisms are plastic and adaptable to varying environments and conditions (Carew 2000; Zupanc 2004).

Patterns of evolution


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