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Marie E. Herberstein, Dr. rer. nat.

Professor of Biological Sciences

Macquarie University, Sydney

Born in 1968 in Graz, Austria
Studied Biology at the University of Vienna


Zur theoretischen Integration von Mimikry in die Ökologie von Lebensgemeinschaften


Global Patterns of Warning Colours - How Variable are They?

Many species of toxic prey advertise their distastefulness through conspicuous warning colours such as red and yellow dots or stripes. Naive predators quickly learn to associate warning colours with an unpleasant taste and avoid future encounters with such prey. Certain colours that contrast strongly against the natural background are commonly observed in warning signals: yellow, orange, and red in combination with darker colours, such as black and blue.
Theory predicts conspicuous and invariable warning signals, but surprising variation exists not only between populations and species but also within populations. The existence of such signal polymorphisms or less conspicuous warning signals in toxic prey is a puzzling and unresolved question in evolutionary biology.
In this project, I will investigate how warning colours in insects vary globally, across broad ecosystem regions. I propose to conduct a broad-scale review of warning colour patterns across global and climatic regions. I intend to utilise guidebooks and diversity databases to characterise warning signal colour and size in known aposematic insect groups.
The initial hypothesis I want to test is that warning colours have a greater proportion of black to yellow/orange/red in colder climates than in warmer climates. However, the power of this type of global analysis is in generating new hypotheses as to why warning signals vary.

Recommended Reading

Heiling, A. M., M. E. Herberstein, and L. Chittka (2003). "Pollinator attraction: crab-spiders manipulate flower signals." Nature 421: 334.
Kemp, D. J., M. E. Herberstein, L. J. Fleishman, J. A. Endler, A. T. Bennett, A. G. Dyer, N. S. Hart, J. Marshall, and M. J. Whiting (2015). "An integrative framework for the appraisal of coloration in nature." American Naturalist 185: 705-724.
O'Hanlon, J. C., G. I. Holwell, and M. E. Herberstein (2014). "Pollinator deception in the orchid mantis." American Naturalist 183: 126-132.

Publikationen aus der Fellowbibliothek

Herberstein, Marie E. ( Chicago, Ill., 2015)
An integrative framework for the appraisal of coloration in nature

Herberstein, Marie E. ( Chicago, Ill., 2014)
Pollinator deception in the orchid mantis

Herberstein, Marie E. ( Oxford, 2006)
Flower symmetry preferences in honeybees and their crab spider predators

Herberstein, Marie E. ( London, 2003)
Crab-spiders manipulate flower signals

Herberstein, Marie E. ( London, 2003)
Crab-spiders manipulate flower signals