Term of Award

Summer 2020

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Christian L. Cox

Committee Member 1

Elizabeth Hunter

Committee Member 2

Lance McBrayer


Studying warning coloration and mimicry is an effective way to understand predator-driven selection and phenotypic diversity. The presence (sympatry) or absence (allopatry) of a toxic model plays a role in shaping mimetic phenotypes. However, the impact of edge sympatry and allopatry on predation of mimetic phenotypes is not well understood. We studied coralsnake mimicry to test how edge sympatry and allopatry affect predation on mimetic phenotypes. Specifically, we tested 1) if overall attack rates varied with edge sympatry of coralsnakes 2) which color patterns conferred a fitness advantage 3) which specific mimetic signal components are important in driving predatory attacks and 4) whether selection patterns varied temporally. We deployed clay replicas that utilized a cryptic pattern, two different signal components (red and white), and a tricolor pattern that included both signal components. We found that overall attacks did differ between edge sympatry and allopatry, with higher attack rates in allopatry. All mimetic phenotypes in 2019 had higher attack rates than cryptic phenotypes in edge sympatry, with a similar but nonspecific pattern in allopatry. Replicas with red and bands received more predatory attacks in edge sympatry than those without, once again with a similar pattern in allopatry. There was also a difference in attack rates and patterns between years, indicating temporally variable selection such as frequency-dependent selection. These results suggest that mimetic phenotypes may not have a fitness advantage in areas of edge sympatry or allopatry. This suggests the role of sympatry and allopatry may be more complex than previously thought, particularly in how sympatry may interact with extraneous factors such as behavior and frequency of phenotypes.

Research Data and Supplementary Material