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Keywords:

  • Camouflage;
  • crypsis;
  • decoration;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • polyphenism

Abstract 1. Crypsis is one of the main defences that insects use to avoid predators, and both the juveniles and adults of many geometrid moths are remarkable in their ability to blend into different host backgrounds. The larvae of Synchlora frondaria have two methods to achieve crypsis: phenotypic plasticity in colouration that enable them to hide more effectively on their host plants, and a self-decorating behaviour whereby the larvae camouflage themselves with materials from their host plants.

2. Larvae of Synchlora frondaria reared on three different host plants showed systematic differences in relative growth rate, survivorship and larval colouration.

3. Larval colouration varied across diet treatments in a way that was consistent with diet-induced phenotypic plasticity, and larvae also exhibited characteristic decorating behaviour on all three hosts.

4. Larvae showed highest survivorship on Heterotheca subaxillaris (Asteraceae), and had significantly higher relative growth rates on H. subaxillaris (Asteraceae) and Lantana camara (Verbenaceae) than on Bejaria racemosa (Ericaceae).

5. Synchlora frondaria provides an example of a species where both decorating behaviour and phenotypic plasticity in larval colouration produce a cryptic form that is remarkably responsive to its background.