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Types of mimicry in the animal world

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Types of mimicry in the animal world

Mimicry is defined as ability of some living things to look like other organisms, whether they are animals, fungi or plants in the environment.

Mimicry of a caterpillar.

This tactic is based on gain an advantage by deceiving or confusing other beings to avoid predation, facilitate parasitism or attract prey. This can be achieved in different ways, either by adopting different postures or by resembling other more feared beings.

Mimicry is the best example we can use to explain natural selection. Next, we tell you more about the different types of mimicry that exist.

Types of mimicry

Mimetic signs can be:

  • visuals,
  • acoustic,
  • chemical,
  • touch.

Depending on how this phenomenon is experienced, up to 5 different mimicry models are known in nature.

Batesian mimicry

The term “Batesian” honors the first person to study this type of mimesis, Henry Walter Bates, during his trip to the Amazon in 1848.

Bates observed that the harmless butterflies of the family Pieridae imitated colors and shapes of the heliconid butterflies of this region, which had toxins that gave them an unpleasant taste. Thus, when a predator tried to attack them, he remembered that horrible flavor given off by the toxic butterflies that they resembled and avoided.

This was the first test supporting Charles Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection.

Therefore, the animals that experience this mimicry are those that morphologically resemble a species that is disgusting, toxic, or dangerous. In this way they manage to deceive their natural predators.

Another example is the one that occurs between the coral snake, an extremely poisonous animal, and the false coral snake. The imitator has a distribution and coloration of the rings so similar to the dangerous species that they are impossible to differentiate for their attackers.

Müllerian mimicry

In this case, two or more different species (with similar appearance and that share the same predator) develop a common characteristic, such as poison or bad taste.

This will allow, the moment the predator tests an individual of any of the species, discover this very unpleasant characteristic and directly feel rejection for all that resemble it with the naked eye.

In this way, in this collaborative mimicry all species benefit. The advantage is not only evading the predator: thanks to this teamwork, the animals of these species can be found in abundance and occupying various habitats by reducing their number of attackers.

This type of mimicry is named for its discoverer, Fiedrich Theodor Müller.

Aggressive mimicry

In this example of mimicry, the animal manipulates the behavior of its potential prey: predators resemble a harmless being or weaker with which they are not related, to attract said prey and be able to attack it easily.

For example:

  • The family praying mantis Hymenopodideae It resembles in color and forms a flower to attract its prey (pollinating insects).
  • There are also spiders that imitate pheromones female moth attractants to attract male moths, which will serve as food.

Automatism

The beings that automate themselves disguise a part of their body imitating another that is more delicate and at the same time vital for its survival, such as the head. In this way, they direct the attack of the predators to a more expendable or resistant area of ​​the body and so they manage to escape from these.

There are numerous insects that experience this phenomenon, such as butterflies of the subfamily Thedeclinae, They use this defense mechanism with the ends and patterns of their wings. When they land on a surface they do so with their heads down and begin to flap their wings so that they create the sensation of a false head.

Aposematism

Finally, aposematism is a term used to describe the cases in which animals that are harmless acquire some warning features similar to those of others who are dangerous and feared. These can be flashy colors or be based on the emission of acoustic and chemical signals that animals use to scare away enemies.

We can see it in cases like caterpillars that have spectacular spots that simulate large and dangerous open eyes.

Aposematism is a phenomenon that is related to Batesian mimicry.

Evolution is linked to mimicry

Throughout this space we have discovered a true art of deception: mimicry. This spectacular phenomenon is used by numerous beings to protect themselves and ensure their survival.

And not only that: the success of this ability allows mimetic animals that manage to avoid their predators to procreate and give rise to offspring. In this way, these useful characteristics will be inherited in the following generations and therefore the species that last over time will be those that possess these adaptive traits.

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