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      Spottier Targets Are Less Attractive to Tabanid Flies: On the Tabanid-Repellency of Spotty Fur Patterns

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          During blood-sucking, female members of the family Tabanidae transmit pathogens of serious diseases and annoy their host animals so strongly that they cannot graze, thus the health of the hosts is drastically reduced. Consequently, a tabanid-resistant coat with appropriate brightness, colour and pattern is advantageous for the host. Spotty coats are widespread among mammals, especially in cattle ( Bos primigenius). In field experiments we studied the influence of the size and number of spots on the attractiveness of test surfaces to tabanids that are attracted to linearly polarized light. We measured the reflection-polarization characteristics of living cattle, spotty cattle coats and the used test surfaces. We show here that the smaller and the more numerous the spots, the less attractive the target (host) is to tabanids. We demonstrate that the attractiveness of spotty patterns to tabanids is also reduced if the target exhibits spottiness only in the angle of polarization pattern, while being homogeneous grey with a constant high degree of polarization. Tabanid flies respond strongly to linearly polarized light, and we show that bright and dark parts of cattle coats reflect light with different degrees and angles of polarization that in combination with dark spots on a bright coat surface disrupt the attractiveness to tabanids. This could be one of the possible evolutionary benefits that explains why spotty coat patterns are so widespread in mammals, especially in ungulates, many species of which are tabanid hosts.

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          Most cited references 26

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          Animal camouflage: current issues and new perspectives.

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            Contrasting coloration in terrestrial mammals.

             Tim Caro (2009)
            Here I survey, collate and synthesize contrasting coloration in 5000 species of terrestrial mammals focusing on black and white pelage. After briefly reviewing alternative functional hypotheses for coloration in mammals, I examine nine colour patterns and combinations on different areas of the body and for each mammalian taxon to try to identify the most likely evolutionary drivers of contrasting coloration. Aposematism and perhaps conspecific signalling are the most consistent explanations for black and white pelage in mammals; background matching may explain white pelage. Evidence for contrasting coloration is being involved in crypsis through pattern blending, disruptive coloration or serving other functions, such as signalling dominance, lures, reducing eye glare or in temperature regulation has barely moved beyond anecdotal stages of investigation. Sexual dichromatism is limited in this taxon and its basis is unclear. Astonishingly, the functional significance of pelage coloration in most large charismatic black and white mammals that were new to science 150 years ago still remains a mystery.
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              Tabanids as vectors of disease agents.

               L Foil (1989)
              The Tabanidae are considered to be among the major Dipteran pests of man and animals worldwide, but this group is undoubtedly the least studied. There have been at least 137 genera and 4154 species of tabanids described to date. Yet, existing, active research programmes number, at most, 50 in systematics and distribution, 15 in economic entomology, and five in disease transmission. To redress the balance, Lane Foil discusses the entire spectrum of research on the transmission of infections by tabanids, both from the point of view of general factors affecting transmission dynamics, as well as the specific examination of candidate agents, from viruses to filaria.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                2 August 2012
                : 7
                : 8
                [1 ]Environmental Optics Laboratory, Department of Biological Physics, Physical Institute, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary
                [2 ]Group for Methodology in Biology Teaching, Biological Institute, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary
                [3 ]Danube Research Institute, Centre for Ecological Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Vácrátót, Hungary
                [4 ]Computer Vision and Robotics Group, University of Girona, Girona, Spain
                [5 ]Department of Biology, Centre for Animal Movement Research, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
                INRA-UPMC, France
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: GK SA GH. Performed the experiments: MB AE LB GK RH GH. Analyzed the data: MB AE RH GH. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: MB AE GK RH SA GH. Wrote the paper: SA GH.

                Blaho et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 10
                Research Article
                Animal Management
                Animal Behavior
                Animal Welfare
                Anatomy and Physiology
                Behavioral Ecology
                Physiological Ecology
                Interdisciplinary Physics
                Veterinary Science
                Animal Management
                Animal Behavior
                Animal Welfare
                Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology
                Animal Skin Anatomy
                Veterinary Diseases
                Veterinary Parasitology



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