SVR Murthy

In general connotation, ‘mimicry’ refers to the imitation of one species by another. Webster’s New World College Dictionary further defines the term as “close resemblance, in colour, form, or behaviour of one organism to another or to some object in its environment … it serves to disguise or conceal the organism from predators.” The disguising of the organism in the process of mimicry brings the term closer to the warfare device of camouflaging which, according to Webster’s Dictionary, implies “the disguising of troops, ships, guns, etc. to conceal them from the enemy, as by the use of paint, nets, or leaves in patterns merging with the background.” Jacques Lacan establishes the relation between mimicry and camouflage in his essay ‘The Line and Light”: Mimcry reveals something in so far as it is distinct from what might be called an itself that is behind. The effect of mimicry is camouflage…. It is not a question of harmonizing with the background, but against a mottled background, of becoming mottled— exactly like the technique of camouflage practiced in human warfare.

Mimesis, roughly translated, means putting the artistic presentation of an idea into the minds of people who then relate it to their experience and end up feeling the way the artist intended them to feel. Aristotle defined mimesis as imitation, but imitation with sufficient difference from original life to attract and hold the audience's interest. Imitation, he argued, is a natural human instinct from which we gain pleasure and learn our earliest lessons. Poetry originates from this instinct, plus a natural delight in imitations presented by others.

There are different ways to classify the different types of mimicry, but I will show you two main groups of mimicry, in which we will see different subtypes: 

Defensive mimicry

The defensive mimicry is specially performed by animals that have lots of predators, so their survival rates depend on avoiding their predators.

1.Batesian mimicry:  In the Batesian mimicry, the mimetic organism (that is usually harmless and edible) copies the flashy traits of a venomous or poisonous organism present in its habitat in order to make predators think it’s a harmful species. Thus, the mimetic organism avoids being caught and eaten by predators.

2.Mullerian mimicry:  Sometimes, there are various poisonous orvenomous species coexisting at the same time in the same habitat that are all being very hunted by predators (and sometimes by the same predator). In some of these cases, even when only one of these species has an aposematic trait to dispel predators, the rest of them try to mimic it and develop this trait (or traits). In contrast with de Batesian mimicry, in this model all species are harmful at some degree.

Try to think that all these species finally develop the same aposematic coloration: when predators prey on one of these species and are harmed in result, probably they won’t attack again any species that has the same coloration pattern. Thus, predation pressure will be distributed within the species matrix.

3.Mertensian Mimicry:

In the picture above, we can see that predators that feed on a harmful organism die (e.g. because it’s poisonous), so that the information “this animal is poisonous and mortal, don’t eat it!” won’t be transmitted to the rest of the predator population nor the next generations of predators. Thus, this harmful prey will remain preyed by predators. On the other hand, predators that feed on a less harmful prey and stay alive will have the chance to transmit this information to the rest of the population, so that predators will stop feeding on this prey.


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