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    Aposematism continues to be a phenomenon of central interest in evolutionary biology. The life history of the mimic poison frog, Ranitomeya imitator, relies heavily on aposematism. In order for aposematic signals to be effective, predators must be able to learn to avoid the associated phenotype. However, in R. imitator, aposematism is associated with four different color phenotypes that mimic a complex of congeneric species occurring across the mimic frog's geographic range. Investigations of the underlying mechanics of color production in these frogs can provide insights into how and why these different morphs evolved. We used histological samples to examine divergence in the color production mechanisms used by R. imitator to produce effective aposematic signals across its geographic range. We measured the coverage of melanophores and xanthophores (the area covered by chromatophores divided by total area of the skin section) in each color morph. We find that morphs that produce orange skin exhibit a higher coverage of xanthophores and lower coverage of melanophores than those that produce yellow skin. In turn, morphs that produce yellow skin exhibit a higher coverage of xanthophores and lower coverage of melanophores than those that produce green skin. Generally, across the morphs, a high ratio of xanthophores to melanophores is associated with colors of brighter spectral reflectance. Together, our results contribute to the understanding of color production in amphibians and document divergence in the histology of a species that is subject to divergent selection associated with aposematism. © 2023 de Araujo Miles et al.


    Mallory de Araujo Miles, Mikayla Joyce Johnson, Adam M M Stuckert, Kyle Summers. A histological analysis of coloration in the Peruvian mimic poison frog (Ranitomeya imitator). PeerJ. 2023;11:e15533

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    PMID: 37404476

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