Supplementary material from "Testing bird-driven diurnal trade-offs of the moon moth's anti-bat tail"

Posted on 2023-01-27 - 04:24
Traits are often caught in a dynamic tension of countervailing evolutionary pressures. Trade-offs can be imposed by predators evolutionarily curtailing the conspicuousness of a sexually selected trait, or acting in opposition to another natural selection pressure, for instance, a different predator with a divergent hunting strategy. Some moon moths (Saturniidae) have long hindwing tails that thwart echolocating bat attacks at night, allowing the moth to escape. These long tails may come at a cost, however, if they make the moth's roosting form more conspicuous to visually foraging predators during the day. To test this potential trade-off, we offered wild-caught Carolina wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus) pastry dough models with real Actias luna wings that were either intact or had tails experimentally removed. We video recorded wrens foraging on models and found that moth models with tails did not experience increased detection and attack by birds. Thus, this elaborate trait, while obvious to human observers, does not seem to come at a cost of increased avian predator attention. We instead find that echolocating bats at night have likely driven the evolution of long hindwing tails, with limited opposing diurnal constraints. This study demonstrates the importance of testing presumed trade-offs and provides hypotheses for future testing.


Rubin, Juliette J.; Martin, Nich W.; Sieving, Kathryn E.; Kawahara, Akito Y. (2023): Supplementary material from "Testing bird-driven diurnal trade-offs of the moon moth's anti-bat tail". The Royal Society. Collection.
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Biology Letters


Juliette J. Rubin
Nich W. Martin
Kathryn E. Sieving
Akito Y. Kawahara
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