Nature has its own clever way of giving a warning that a plant or creature is not to be messed with! Whilst it might be tricky being green, it’s pretty handy being yellow, orange, yellow or black and white. In the world of nature, many species of animals use special colourations and markings to send out the message that they wouldn’t make a very tasty snack!
When trying to avoid a predator, camouflage or hiding is a common method to avoid becoming something’s dinner. However, it’s not always the safest or most effective technique. Take butterflies, for example. Some will try to blend in with the surroundings to avoid being attacked, whilst others make themselves brightly coloured and easily visible but as a form of defence. Such bright colours and markings act as a warning of toxicity.
This is known as aposematism, where easily visible colours and markings act as a warning to others. Butterflies like the Monarch make no efforts to hide but instead, their highly visible orange and black colouration acts like a neon sign advertising how toxic they are and how awful they taste!
It doesn’t have to be colours that advertise danger. Often an animal will display visibly striking contrast patterns on their body to display their toxicity or danger to others who might be tempted to think of them as prey.
Consider the skunk as an example. The skunk’s wide white stripe on a black body acts as a reminder that others should not get too close or risk a nasty surprise. The poison dart frog with its yellow band and graphic hues is another example of a strong warning sign of the deadly toxins that it secretes from its skin. Ladybirds with their distinctive red and black also serve as a warning signal and the brighter the colouring, the higher the level of toxicity to other critters. The yellow and black striping of bees and wasps provide another example of nature’s warning about the possibility of being stung.
We use the same system in the human world too, with danger and hazard signs using red, white, black and fluorescent yellow colours to draw our attention and warn us. You’ll see an example of this with the livery on the rear of road maintenance and emergency vehicles. For more information on where to find Chapter 8 Chevrons, contact Vehicle Chevrons
Scientific studies have shown that the most effective warning colours include red, black, white and yellow when found in the animal kingdom. Acting exactly like a set of traffic lights that give caution to drivers, bright and contrasting animal markings are nature’s way of saying beware!
Of course, some of these creatures are not toxic at all but have learnt the art of mimicry to fool their predators. Many non-toxic species of butterfly for example, have evolved to have similar markings and patterns to the toxic species. Lizards and birds have learned to avoid these particular preys, even though they are but imitators.