Contact: Diana Lutz
Washington University in St. Louis
Caption: The milkweed tussock caterpillar provides another example of ignorance of payoff. The caterpillar takes on poisons by feeding on milkweed and dogbane, and its bright colors warn predators that it is toxic. But an individual caterpillar may die if she attracts a naive predator. If she knew in advance that she would be a teaching example she might opt for less conspicuous colors. But since she cannot know, selection favors bright colors that deter experienced predators.
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Related news release: Ignorance is sometimes bliss