Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/289

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IX
267
WARNING COLORATION AND MIMICRY

an indication of their hardness and consequent inedibility, as in the case of the hard beetles; and it is not improbable that some of the phosphorescent fishes and other marine organisms may, like the glow-worm, hold out their lamp as a warning to enemies.[1] In Queensland there is an exceedingly poisonous spider, whose bite will kill a dog, and cause severe illness with excruciating pain in man. It is black, with a bright vermilion patch on the middle of the body; and it is so well recognised by this conspicuous coloration that even the spider-hunting wasps avoid it.[2]

Locusts and grasshoppers are generally of green protective tints, but there are many tropical species most gaudily decorated with red, blue, and black colours. On the same general grounds as those by which Mr. Belt predicted the inedibility of his conspicuous frog, we might safely predict the same for these insects; but we have fortunately a proof that they are so protected, since Mr. Charles Home states that one of the bright coloured Indian locusts was invariably rejected when offered to birds and lizards.[3]

The examples now given lead us to the conclusion that colours acquired for the purpose of serving as a danger-signal to enemies are very widespread in nature, and, with the corresponding colours of the species which mimic them, furnish us with a rational explanation of a considerable portion of the coloration of animals which is outside the limits of those colours that have been acquired for either protection or recognition. There remains, however, another set of colours, chiefly among the higher animals, which, being connected with some of the most interesting and most disputed questions in natural history, must be discussed in a separate chapter.

  1. Mr. Belt first suggested this use of the light of the Lampyridae (fireflies and glow-worms)—Naturalist in Nicaragua, p. 320. Mr. Verrill and Professor Meldola made the same suggestion in the case of medusae and other phosphorescent marine organisms (Nature, vol. xxx. pp. 281, 289).
  2. W.E. Armit, in Nature, vol. xviii. p. 642.
  3. Proc. Ent. Soc., 1869, p. xiii.