Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Biological Science

First Advisor

Brice P. Noonan

Second Advisor

Richard Buchholz

Third Advisor

Ryan Garrick


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



Scientists have regarded mimicry as one of the most amazing examples of the power of natural selection. Early observations by naturalists of the mimetic association between venomous New World coral snakes of the genus Micrurus and harmless mimics has stimulated an intense debate about the causes and consequences of mimicry that persists today. Despite its medical, evolutionary and historical importance our understanding of evolution within the genus Micrurus is negligible. My dissertation explores the evolution of mimicry within South American coral snakes and their mimics using a multi-scale framework involving macroevolutionary (Chapter I), geographic/morphological concordance (Chapters II and III), behavioral (Chapter IV), and phylogeographic (Chapter V) approaches. I show that warning coloration is widespread, liable and positively correlated with speciation rates. I found that Micrurus species behave as Müllerian mimics. Oxyrhopus guibei is a potential mimic of the genus Micrurus and mimetic precision is independent of model’s species richness but dependent on which part of the snake’s body is being studied. I also demonstrate that social interactions might be an underappreciated factor on the evolution of mimicry. Finally, I explore the phylogeographic history of M. surinamensis and M. lemniscatus and provide an interpretation of their distinct patterns of evolution with implications for Micrurus’ taxonomy.

Included in

Biology Commons



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