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Mimicry: what it is and examples

During the more than 3,500 million years of evolution that species have lived, they have been able to acquire different and numerous strategies that allow them, both to adapt more easily and precisely to the environment in which they inhabit, and to be able to survive, leaving offspring and colonizing thus new territories. Among these survival strategies, mimicry is undoubtedly one of the most surprising. There are a whole series of biological factors and conditions that push certain animals and plants to blend in with other individuals of different species, using the most sophisticated techniques.

Continue reading this AgroCorrn article and you will learn in detail everything about mimicry, what it is and examples with photos, as well as the different types of mimicry that exist in nature and how we can distinguish and recognize the strategy that some species are using specifically and others. to survive.

You may also be interested in: Aposematism: what it is and examples

What is mimicry – definition

Mimicry is one of the most surprising and effective survival strategies that numerous species of animals and plants have developed throughout their biological evolution. It consists of the ability to resemble individuals of other species with whom they do not maintain any biological relationship, or else, they try to achieve a similarity as exact as possible to the environment in which they live , always with the ultimate aim of obtaining some biological advantage. and ensure their survival.

Through mimicry , organisms are capable of deceiving other animals with which they live in the same habitat, mainly their predators, confusing their senses of sight, hearing and smell, and sometimes even inducing certain behaviors in them.

In the next sections we will see in detail the different types of mimicry that exist in nature, as well as examples of the most common and surprising mimetic animals.

Types of mimicry

After knowing well the definition of this survival strategy, we explain the different types of mimicry :

Batesian mimicry

In this type of mimicry so widespread within nature, a “model” species is toxic and / or inedible for predators, while a second species, the “mimetic”, despite being edible and lacking toxicity, has gone evolving over years to achieve an appearance as exact as possible to that of the toxic model species, thus favoring its survival by not being ingested by predators. Generally, the mimetic species is less abundant than the “model”, and both inhabit the same territory simultaneously, so that the predators in the area associate the pattern of colors and morphologies of the “model” species (and in turn , that of mimetics), as an inedible organism.

Müllerian mimicry

In this other type of mimetic strategy, two or more species appear, all of them recognized as “inedible or unpleasant” organisms for predators. Both species live in the same territory simultaneously, and their evolutionary strategy has allowed their predators not to be able to differentiate them from each other, since their appearance is practically the same. With this, the two species keep their population numbers in balance, since possible predators that still do not know their status as “inedible” will prey and consume them equally, both individuals of one species and the other.

Aposematism

Aposematism is a phenomenon in which different species of animals and plants display colorations and some behaviors as a warning sign of their own chemical toxicity. In this way, the vivid yellow, orange and red colorations that many amphibians, insects and other organisms present, are aposematic colorations that indicate to potential predators the toxicity of their ingestion and even the possibility of poisoning them with liquids and other irritants.

Automatism

Self- mimicry or intraspecific mimicry is another of the most surprising types of mimicry. In this case, the organisms choose to imitate the shape and coloring of certain parts of their body (eyes, head, etc.), placing them at the rear end of their body, as well as on the wings or on the back. In the next section we will see the names of different animals that perform this sophisticated and surprising mimetic strategy to better understand their abilities.

Aggressive mimicry

Aggressive mimicry is characterized by the use of any mimetic technique with the aim of killing other individuals of another species to feed themselves or to obtain another benefit, such as the famous case of the eggs of the cuckoo bird ( Cuculus canorus ), in which the females are capable of varying the appearance of their eggs depending on the species of bird they intend to parasitize, thus achieving that their eggs blend in with those of the other female of a different species.

Non-visual mimicry

Not all mimetic strategies are based on the visual, but sometimes, animals make use of various chemical (pheromones) and sensory mechanisms (smells and sounds) to achieve mimicry with other “model” species and achieve some specific benefit or simply , their survival within the ecosystem.

Mimicry and crypsis or camouflage

While mimicry involves the use of a “disguise” (certain anatomy and coloration) by the animal, as an imitation of another species with which it wants to resemble to ensure its survival; Crypsis or camouflage only implies the organism’s ability to mix with the background of the environment in which it is found, changing its shape or color to ensure a more effective camouflage and that predators are not able to differentiate them

Mimicry: examples

Finally, we offer lists with examples of mimicry according to type:

Batesian mimicry

  • Coral snake (Elapidae family): Mimics with venomous king snakes ( Lampropeltis getula californiae )
  • Butterflies of the genus Dismorphia: mimic other butterflies of the genus Ithomiini ( family Nymphalidae )
  • Fly Aneriophora aureorufa : mimics the bumblebee Bombus dahlbornii
  • Orchid Epidendrum ibaguense : mimics the flowers of Asclepias curassavica

Mullerian mimicry

  • Butterflies of the genus Heliconius
  • Moths of the genus Dioptnae (Lepidoptera)

Aposematism

  • Skunks (family Mephitidae)
  • Strawberry Dart Frog ( Oophaga granulifera)
  • Yellow Dart Frog ( Phyllobates terribilis )
  • Common salamander (family Salamandridae)
  • Hornet (Vespa crabro )

Automatism

  • Pygmy owl (genus Glaucidium)
  • Butterflyfish ( Chaetodon capistratus )
  • Monarch butterfly (Nymphalidae family)
  • Gray butterfly ( Strymon melinus )

Aggressive mimicry

  • Orchid Mantis ( Hymenopus coronatus )
  • Beetle larvae of the genus Meloe
  • Predatory spiders of ants of the family Salticidae

Non-visual mimicry

  • Land owl ( Athene cunicularia )
  • Bee Orchid ( Ophrys speculum )
  • Parasitic plants of the genus Rafflesia
  • Plants of the genus Stapelia
  • Tropical plants of the genus Amorphophallus

Crypsis or camouflage

  • Chameleon (Family Chamaeleonidae)
  • Blue-ringed octopus (genus Hapalochlaena)
  • Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko ( Uroplatus phantasticus )
  • Leafy sea dragon ( Phycodurus eques )
  • Birch Butterflies ( Biston betularia )

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