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Word of the Week: Aposematism

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each week to amp up your nature vocabulary!

The word of the week is aposematism [ah-puh-seh-muh-ti-zm] (noun): the use of a signal by an animal to warn predators that it is toxic or distasteful. This is usually done to indicate to a potential predator that it is not worth attacking or eating.

These signals can take many different forms — conspicuous coloration, sounds, odours or any other clearly perceivable characteristic. Examples of signs of aposematism in animals in High Park include the bright red and black colors of a ladybug beetle, or the strong odour emitted by a Striped Skunk coupled with its bold black and white stripes.

Aposematic signals are beneficial for both predator and prey — warning the former to avoid potential harm and as a dissuading defence mechanism for the latter.