Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Do animal eyespots really mimic eyes?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

Martin Stevens, Graeme D. Ruxton

School/Research organisations

Abstract

The diversity of anti-predator adaptations in the natural world has long been an active area of research in evolutionary and behavioural biology. A common visually-obvious feature found on prey are 'eyespots', being approximately circular markings often with concentric rings and conspicuous colours. These are found on a range of animals, especially adult and larval Lepidoptera and fish. One of the most widespread functions of eyespots seems to be to intimidate or startle predators: delaying, preventing or halting an attack. However, while the fact that they can influence predators in this way is uncontroversial, the mechanism(s) behind why they are effective is debated. Traditionally, they have been assumed to work by mimicking the eyes of the predator's own enemies, and much research in this field is conducted under the implicit or explicit assumption that this theory is correct. However, eyespots might work simply by being highly salient stimuli that promote sensory overload, biases, or neophobic reactions in predators. A range of recent studies has aimed to test these alternatives. Here, we critically evaluate this work and what it tells us about the mechanisms underlying eyespot function. We conclude that although eye mimicry is plausible, there remains a lack of evidence to support it and most observations are at least equally consistent with alternative mechanisms. Finally, we also discuss how the debate can be resolved.

Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-36
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Zoology
Volume60
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Research areas

  • Eyespots, Predation, Animal coloration, Mimicry, Warning signals, Predator face recognition, Avian feeding behavior, Warning coloration, Butterfly eyespots, Pattern-formation, Evolution, Shapes, Birds, Conspicuousness, Intimidation

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Birdsbesafe® collar cover reduces bird predation by domestic cats (Felis catus)

    Pemberton, C. & Ruxton, G. D., 8 Oct 2019, In : Journal of Zoology. Early View

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Secondary dispersal mechanisms of winged seeds: a review

    der Weduwen, D. & Ruxton, G. D., Oct 2019, In : Biological Reviews. 94, 5, p. 1830-1838 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  3. Deconstructing collective building in social insects: implications for ecological adaptation and evolution

    Invernizzi, E. & Ruxton, G. D., 8 Aug 2019, In : Insectes Sociaux. First Online, 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  4. The Hermans–Rasson test as a powerful alternative to the Rayleigh test for circular statistics in biology

    Landler, L., Ruxton, G. D. & Malkemper, E. P., 7 Aug 2019, In : BMC Ecology. 19, 8 p., 30.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. A theory for investment across defences triggered at different stages of a predator-prey encounter

    Wang, L., Ruxton, G. D., Cornell, S. J., Speed, M. P. & Broom, M., 21 Jul 2019, In : Journal of Theoretical Biology. 473, p. 9-19 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Gradients in predation risk in a tropical river system

    Deacon, A. E., Jones, F. A. M. & Magurran, A. E., 1 Apr 2018, In : Current Zoology. 64, 2, p. 213-221 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Detecting polygenic selection in marine populations by combining population genomics and quantitative genetics approaches

    Gagnaire, P-A. & Gaggiotti, O. E., Dec 2016, In : Current Zoology. 62, 6, p. 603-616 14 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. How might epigenetics contribute to ecological speciation?

    Smith, G. & Ritchie, M. G., 2013, In : Current Zoology. 59, 5, p. 686-696 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Predicting ecological regime shift under climate change: new modelling and molecular-based approaches

    Stafford, R., Smith, V. A., Husmeier, D., Grima, T. & Guinn, B-A., 2013, In : Current Zoology. 59, 3, p. 403-417 15 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 116757516

Top