In evolutionary biology
, mimicry is an evolved resemblance between an organism and another object, often an organism of another species. Mimicry may evolve between different species, or between individuals of the same species. Often, mimicry functions to protect a species from predators, making it an antipredator adaptation
. Mimicry evolves if a receiver (such as a predator) perceives the similarity between a mimic (the organism that has a resemblance) and a model (the organism it resembles) and as a result changes its behaviour in a way that provides a selective advantage to the mimic. The resemblances that evolve in mimicry can be visual, acoustic, chemical, tactile, or electric, or combinations of these sensory modalities. Mimicry may be to the advantage of both organisms that share a resemblance, in which case it is a form of mutualism
; or mimicry can be to the detriment of one, making it parasitic
. The evolutionary convergence between groups is driven by the selective
action of a signal-receiver or dupe. Birds, for example, use sight to identify palatable insects, whilst avoiding the noxious ones. Over time, palatable insects may evolve to resemble noxious ones, making them mimics and the noxious ones models. In the case of mutualism, sometimes both groups are referred to as "co-mimics". It is often thought that models must be more abundant than mimics, but this is not so. Mimicry may involve numerous species; many harmless species such as hoverflies are Batesian mimics
of strongly defended species such as wasps, while many such well-defended species form Mullerian mimicry
rings, all resembling each other. Mimicry between prey species and their predators often involves three or more species.
In its broadest definition, mimicry can include non-living models. The specific terms masquerade
are sometimes used when the models are inanimate. For example, animals
such as flower mantises
and geometer moth
caterpillars resemble twigs, bark, leaves, bird droppings or flowers. Many animals bear eyespots
, which are hypothesized to resemble the eyes of larger animals. They may not resemble any specific organism's eyes, and whether or not animals respond to them as eyes is also unclear. Nonetheless, eyespots are the subject of a rich contemporary literature. The model is usually another species, except in automimicry
, where members of the species mimic other members, or other parts of their own bodies, and in inter-sexual mimicry
, where members of one sex mimic members of the other. Read more...