Batesian Mimicry

The First Discovery for other
Lines of Defense in Nature


Batesian Mimicry in butterflies was the first discovery to unfolding more forms of mimicry. Since then, science has learned that Mimicry in nature comes in many more forms then first realized.


Mimicry is when one species mimics another
in order to deceive and confuse predators.


Two terms of importance:

  • Fake (or fraud)
  • Model


Forms of mimicking include using appearance, behavior, sound, scent and camouflage. Mimicry in butterflies is when one mimics, or fakes, itself to resemble another butterfly species - the model.


In the 19th Century one Naturalist, Henry Walter Bates, discovered that two similar looking tropical butterflies were actually members of different families.

It was discovered that the harmless Dismorphia Butterfly (Pieridae family) pretended to have poisonous compounds by mimicking its appearance to the Heliconius Butterfly, or Passionvine Butterfly, from the Nymphalidae family. Predators believe that the Dismorphia would be fowl tasting just like the Heliconius Butterfly.





One example in North America of Batesian Mimicry is the Viceroy Butterfly mimicking the appearance of the poisonous Monarch Butterfly. Pictures below show the Female and Male Monarch Butterfly on the top row. These pictures also represent sexual dimorphism amongst butterfly species.

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Female Monarch, Male Monarch and Viceroy Butterfly

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Although mimicry is found primarily in insects, it is also found in reptiles and a few animals in nature. For example, there are moths that mimic leg movements and postures of spiders to appear threatening.

Honey bees have the defense of sting. Many animals stay away from the honey bee for that reason. Certain types of flies, beetles and moths mimic the honey bee to predators who fear getting stung.





Batesian mimicry - not the only
Mimicry in Nature


1) AutoMimicry

AutoMimicry is when an organism has one part of its body
resembling another part of another organisms body.

An example in butterflies is the Owl Butterfly. Eye-spots on its wings resemble the face of a larger animal which scares predators.


2) Mullerian Mimicry

Mullerian Mimicry is when two or more harmful species, not necessarily related families, share common predators. These harmful species have learned to mimic each's warning signals through visual, smelling or hearing strategies.

With Mullerian Mimicry each harmful species
are both the fakes and the models.


3) Aggressive Mimicry

Aggressive Mimicry is where the Fake and the Model trick
a predator into becoming a food source for themselves.


4) Speed Mimicry

Speed Mimicry is where a slow Fake resembles
a fast Model appearing to be hard to catch.


5) Wasmannian Mimicry

Where a Fake mimics the Model to live in the same nest or colony.







Related Articles:


Sexual Dimorphism -
Male and Female Monarch butterflies also represent
sexual dimorphism.

Butterfly Migration -
Being poisonous comes in handy for Monarch Butterflies
with having this journey to travel.





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