Library Dissertation Showcase

Satyric mimicry; a possible reason for imperfect mimicry? Lab research project

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2020

Mimicry, the evolved phenotypic and/or behavioural resemblance of one organism to another, has been used as a perfect example of natural selection as it should lead to the evolution of a perfect mimic of the original model species. However, this is not the case, as many Batesian mimics are imperfect mimics of their model species. This imperfect mimicry has become a big topic of debate, and as such many theories have been created to explain it. One such theory is Satyric mimicry, in which an organism uses model like features paired with harmless features to confuse the predator and result in longer decision making, allowing the prey more time to escape. This theory has a distinct lack of experimental research, becoming the focus of this study. To investigate the validity of this theory Satyric mimic images were created by adding model features e.g. warning colours, to harmless insects. Human participants were shown a range of images of non-mimics, satyric, and model insects, and asked to decide if the insect was harmful or harmless. From this latency, as well as, choice made (Harmful or Harmless) was recorded. Based on this, Satyric mimicry did not cause an increase in latency when making decisions on how harmful an insect was, and based on choices made the model group was deemed to be the most harmful. However, this does not mean that Satyric mimicry is not a reason for imperfect Batesian Mimicry, it is possible that it still exists within specific predator-prey interactions in non-laboratory conditions where multiple signals can act at once, prey are not static, and overshadowing can occur. Within future studies it may beneficial to focus on specific predator-prey interactions within natural environments while also ensuring a sense of risk is present in each study.

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