Plant coloration undermines herbivorous insect camouflage



The main point of our hypothesis “coloration undermines camouflage” is that many color patterns in plants undermine the camouflage of invertebrate herbivores, especially insects, thus exposing them to predation and causing them to avoid plant organs with unsuitable coloration, to the benefit of the plants. This is a common case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and a visual parallel of the chemical signals that plants emit to call wasps when attacked by caterpillars. Moreover, this is also a common natural version of the well-known case of industrial melanism, which illustrates the great importance of plant-based camouflage for herbivorous insects and can serve as an independent test for our hypothesis. We claim that the enormous variations in coloration of leaves, petioles and stems as well as of flowers and fruits undermine the camouflage of invertebrate herbivores, especially insects. We assume that the same principle might operate in certain animal–parasite interactions. Our hypothesis, however, does not contrast or exclude other previous or future explanations of specific types of plant coloration. Traits such as coloration that have more than one type of benefit may be selected for by several agents and evolve more rapidly than ones with a single type of advantage. BioEssays 26:1126–1130, 2004. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.