Veronique Tessier November 22, 2019 Animal
Mimicry means that one species of animal resembles another species closely enough to deceive predators. To evolve, the mimicked species must have warning coloration, because appearing to be bitter-tasting or dangerous gives natural selection something to work on. Once a species has a slight, chance, resemblance to a warning colored species, natural selection can drive its colors and patterns towards more perfect mimicry. There are numerous possible mechanisms, of which by far the best known are:
The sweet flesh of many fruits is ”deliberately” appealing to animals, so that the seeds held within are eaten and ”unwittingly” carried away and deposited (i.e., defecated) at a distance from the parent. Likewise, the nutritious, oily kernels of nuts are appealing to rodents (such as squirrels), which hoard them in the soil to avoid starving during the winter, thus giving those seeds that remain uneaten the chance to germinate and grow into a new plant away from their parent.
Henry Walter Bates’s 1863 book The Naturalist on the River Amazons describes his extensive studies of the insects in the Amazon basin, and especially the butterflies. He discovered that apparently similar butterflies often belonged to different families, with a harmless species mimicking a poisonous or bitter-tasting species to reduce its chance of being attacked by a predator, in the process now called after him, Bayesian mimicry.
Hugh Bamford Cott’s 500-page book Adaptive Coloration in Animals, published in wartime 1940, systematically described the principles of camouflage and mimicry. The book contains hundreds of examples, over a hundred photographs and Cott’s own accurate and artistic drawings, and 27 pages of references. Cott focussed especially on ”maximum disruptive contrast”, the kind of patterning used in military camouflage such as disruptive pattern material. Indeed, Cott describes such applications
Aggressive resemblance is used by predators or parasites. In special aggressive resemblance, the animal looks like something else, luring the prey or host to approach, for example when a flower mantis resembles a particular kind of flower, such as an orchid. In general aggressive resemblance, the predator or parasite blends in with the background, for example when a leopard is hard to see in long grass.
For example, the Arctic fox has a white coat in winter (containing little pigment), and a brown coat in summer (containing more pigment), an example of seasonal camouflage.
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