Date of Award
First proposed by Henry Walter Bates in 1862, Batesian mimicry refers to the scenario in which an undefended species (the mimic) gains protection from predation due to its phenotypic resemblance to a noxious species (the model). Often, the model species possess a conspicuous phenotype which serves to warn predators of the species’ danger. A great deal of research spanning many decades has been devoted to this phenomenon as it applies to coral snakes. Coral snakes are quite noxious and are distinguished from other species of snakes by their banded patterns of bright colors such as red, yellow, and black. It is often observed in nature that the degree to which mimic species resemble their models is quite variable according to geographic location and levels of model abundance. In other words, many “imprecise” mimics exist in nature, across many taxa. This phenomenon holds true for coral snakes and their mimics. For example, certain species of the snake genus Oxyrhopus (the mimics) in South America possess shifted (left/right misalignment of bands) patterns which are not found on species of the genus Micrurus (their models). In order to assess the selective forces acting on imprecise mimics of coral snakes, we constructed clay replicas of three different phenotypes (840 replicas total). These replicas were deployed in Florida’s Apalachicola National Forest in order to sample predation rates on each variant. Two of the phenotypic variants served as imprecise mimics, possessing shifted patterns analogous to those of species of Oxyrhopus, while the third variant served as a precise mimic, possessing no shifting. The predation rates on each of the model variants did not differ, indicating that in areas where a defended model exists there is not a selective disadvantage experienced by imprecise mimics of coral snakes, specifically those possessing shifted patterns.
Hendricks, Matt, "An Examination of Mimetic Precision and the Selective Advantages of Imprecise Mimics" (2021). Honors Theses. 1906.
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