The costs of colour: plasticity of melanin pigmentation in an outbreaking polymorphic forest moth

J. Ethier, M. Gasse, K. Lake, B.C. Jones, M.L. Evenden, E. Despland
  • Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, January 2015, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1111/eea.12275

Plasticity of melanin colouration in a forest moth

What is it about?

Polymorphic melanism in moths has mainly been studied in the context of industrial melanism, but little to nothing is known about melanic polymorphisms in moth populations unaffected by industrial pollution. Melanism has a variety of functions in other insects, and colour polymorphisms often play an important role in shaping population dynamics. We found that melanism in this outbreaking polymorphic forest moth is not only physiologically costly, but also plastic despite the trait’s genetic basis. These physiological costs may result in temporal variation in relative phenotypic fitness, where melanic individuals are disadvantaged during outbreaks.

Why is it important?

Our findings shed some light on the ecological importance of polymorphic melanism in moths and further our collective understanding of the factors promoting polymorphism stability.

The following have contributed to this page: Dr. Jessica Ethier

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