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(also aposematic coloration), a type of protective coloration and form in which inedible animals have a vivid, usually variegated, coloration. Such animals are easily recognizable owing to contrasting color combinations (black, red, and white; orange, white, and black). Insects characterized by warning coloration include soldier beetles, lady bugs, chafers, leaf beetles, blister beetles, and butterflies (Zygaenidae, Arctiidae, Heliconidae). Warning coloration is also characteristic of some fishes, salamanders, fire-bellied toads, birds (dron-gos), and mammals (skunk).
The conspicuousness of animals with warning coloration is to their advantage, inasmuch as when they are recognized, they are not subject to attack from predators. Warning coloration promotes survival of a species in the struggle for existence and is a result of natural selection. (SeeMIMICRY.)