Abstracts (first author)
Is variation in chemical defence parasitism on a public good?
Author(s): Mappes J
An individual's chemical defences (toxins) contribute to a ‘common good’ by educating predators about the distastefulness of the population, hence deterring future attacks on the toxic individuals themselves and other individuals of similar appearance. Defensive chemicals are found in both simple and complex organisms including bacteria, fungi, animals and plants. Variation in defensive chemicals both within and among prey populations has been reported repeatedly in chemical ecology literature but it has received far too little attention from evolutionary ecologists. If some individuals lack defences (‘automimics’) they may exploit the common protection profiting from reduced attack rates but paying no individual cost of toxicity themselves. I will discuss whether variation in chemical defence and automimicry are examples of “environmental noise” or whether we need to seek evolutionary explanations for them. I will also discuss examples where understanding the dynamics of deception (e.g. Batesian mimicry) may have important consequences for successful conservation management.