"Although natural selection can act only through and for the good of each being,
yet characters and structures, which we are apt to consider as of very trifling importance,
may thus be acted on. When we see leaf-eating insects green, and bark-feeders mottled grey, ...
Hence natural selection might be effective in giving the proper colour...
and in keeping that colour, when acquired, true and constant.
Nor ought we to think that the occasional destruction of an animal
of any particular colour would produce little effect..."
On The Origin Of Species
The term aposematic is a word whose Greek origin means keeping away and connotes eliciting a distaste for food. Using the term coloration in relation to the aposematic trait may be incomplete since the coloration of the animals with this attribute is mostly in association with patterns as well.
The significance of this phenomenon
has numerous and broad implications
in ecology and evolution
The notion of coloration as an adaptive trait and its importance as a phenotype for natural selection hasn't always been universally accepted (even after the publication of On the Origin of Species). A. F. Shull in "Evolution" (1936) suggests traits such as sexual selection, warning color and mimicry are insignificant and irrelevant to the point of being excluded from the doctrine of natural selection. Today, as Darwin originally did, biologists see the convergence of colors (and in some cases patterns) in clear association to ecological conditions as evidence for its role as a selected phenotype in a multitude of organisms.
While there are many animals that have warning colors, coral snakes are a vividly colored and a perfect example of the adaptive value of being conspicuously colored and in effect honestly advertising or warning potential predators of an unpleasant, harmful or deadly counter attack.
North American Eastern Coral Snake
Intro to Aposematics and Coral Snakes
Part 2: Evolutionary Explanations
Part 3: Conspicuous Coral Snakes
Coming up in future posts,
more about coral snakes,
or cryptic their pigments can be
and the evolutionary factors
in their aposematic coloration.