Nature’s Warning Colours

Nature uses clever ways to warn us that we shouldn’t mess with a particular plant or creature! Many species of animals in nature use special colours and markings as a way to communicate that they would not make an excellent snack.

Camouflage and hiding are common methods to avoid being eaten by a predator. It’s not the most efficient or safest technique. Consider butterflies. Some butterflies will blend into the environment to avoid being attacked. Others, however, make themselves easily visible and brightly coloured as a way to defend themselves. These bright colours and markings are used to warn of toxic substances.

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It is called aposematism. This occurs when easily visible colours and markings are used to warn others. Butterflies such as the Monarch do not hide, but their orange and black colouration is highly visible and acts like a sign indicating how toxic and bad they taste.

You don’t need to use colours in order to advertise danger. Animals will often display striking patterns to show their danger or toxicity to other people who may be tempted to mistake them for prey.

Take the skunk for example. The wide white stripe that runs down the skunk’s black body serves as a warning to others not to get too close, or they may be in for a nasty shock. A poison dart-frog’s yellow band with graphic colours is another warning sign for the deadly toxins it secretes. Ladybirds, with their red and black colouring, also serve as warning signals. The brighter the colouration is, the more toxic the ladybird is to other animals. Bees and wasps with their yellow and black stripes are another example of how nature warns us about the danger of being stung.

In the human world, we use the same system, using danger and hazard signage in red, white and black, as well as fluorescent yellow to alert us and draw our attention. This is evident in the livery of emergency and road maintenance vehicles. When you need Chapter 8 chevrons, contact PVL, suppliers of Chapter 8 chevrons livery.

Scientists have found that red, black and white are the most effective colours to warn people when they see them in animals. Bright and contrasted animal markings act like a traffic light that warns drivers.

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Some of these creatures, however, are not poisonous at all and have learned to mimic their predators. Non-toxic butterfly species, for example, have evolved similar patterns and markings to toxic species. Birds and lizards have learned to avoid the imitators of these prey.

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