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Many aposematic species show variation in their color patterns even though selection by predators is expected to stabilize warning signals toward a common phenotype. Warning signal variability can be explained by trade-offs with other functions of coloration, such as thermoregulation, that may constrain warning signal expression by favoring darker individuals. Here, we investigated the effect of temperature on warning signal expression in aposematic Amata nigriceps moths that vary in their black and orange wing patterns. We sampled moths from two flight seasons that differed in the environmental temperatures and also reared different families under controlled conditions at three different temperatures. Against our prediction that lower developmental temperatures would reduce the warning signal size of the adult moths, we found no effect of temperature on warning signal expression in either wild or laboratory-reared moths. Instead, we found sex- and population-level differences in wing patterns. Our rearing experiment indicated that ~70% of the variability in the trait is genetic but understanding what signaling and non-signaling functions of wing coloration maintain the genetic variation requires further work. Our results emphasize the importance of considering both genetic and plastic components of warning signal expression when studying intraspecific variation in aposematic species.
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- thermal melanism
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