Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in The Cognitive Animal: Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives on Animal Cognition Edited by Marc Bekoff, Colin Allen, and Gordon M. Burghardt Cambrudge, MIT Press, 2002. Copyright © 2002 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Used by permission.


On close examination, human cultural artifacts bear the unmistakable impress of the structure of the human mind: our tools, habitations. and methods of communication have been molded to suit the strengths and limitations of the human cognitive system (Nosman 1988). It has not commonly been emphasized. however. that similar shaping processes have taken place over the course of biological evolution in response to the cognitive features of other, nonhuman species (Bonner 1980; von Frisch 1974).
Cognitive influences are particularly evident in the modifications of color patterns and behavior of prey species that take advantage of biases and constraints in the perceptual systems of their principal predators. For example, avoidance learning by predators contributes to the evolution of aposematic. or warning, coloration in many distasteful or poisonous species (Guilford 1990; Schuler and Roper 1992); Batesian mimicry (Bates 1862). in which palatable prey evolve to imitate the appearance of aposematic species. takes advantage of the predator's tendency to generalize stimuli (Oaten et al. 1975). But perhaps the most striking illustration of the effects of predator cognition on prey appearance is the large number of species of cryptically colored insects that are polymorphic, with a single species occurring naturally in a variety of disparate forms.