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A macroevolutionary analysis of cryptic colouration in sexually dichromatic grasshoppers of the genus Sphenarium (Orthoptera: Pyrgomophidae).
  • Víctor Ramírez-Delgado,
  • Martín Serrano-Meneses,
  • Raul Cueva del Castillo
Víctor Ramírez-Delgado
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico Facultad de Estudios Superiores Iztacala
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Martín Serrano-Meneses
Universidad de las Américas Puebla
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Raul Cueva del Castillo
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Background matching and disruptive colouration are defense mechanisms of animals against visual predators. Disruptive colouration tends to evolve in microhabitats that are visually heterogeneous, while background matching is favored in microhabitats that are chromatically homogeneous. This is one of the few comparative studies that have tested the relative impact of background matching and disruptive markings in the chromatic evolution. Controlling for the phylogeny, we explored the evolution of the colouration and the marking patterns in the sexual dichromatic and widely distributed Neotropical grasshoppers of the genus Sphenarium. These grasshoppers represent an excellent model to investigate the evolution of cryptic colouration on insects due to the heterogeneity of the environments where they have evolved. We found a correlation between the grasshoppers' colouration and disruptive markings with the chromatic properties of their environments that was inferred by the levels of precipitation during the rainy season. The results suggest that colours and marks patterns could evolve due to predation pressures. Colour in both sexes could offer camouflage that is not perfectly background matched to a single habitat but instead offers a degree of resemblance to multiple backgrounds. Moreover, we found that males and females chromatic properties differ between them and precipitation levels where the species are found. This suggests that the sexes have diverged in their response to the environments, favoring the evolution of sexual dichromatism in these grasshoppers.