Members of the moth Family Sesiidae (clearwing moths) are wasp mimics, and often incredibly good ones. The easiest way to tell them apart is by the body scales (frequently there are tufts at the tail-end of the abdomen) and thickened antennae. Clearwing moths are day-fliers and can sometimes be encountered nectaring at flowers, but rarely come to lights at night.
The mimicry affords them protection from some daytime predators. The caterpillars bore through the woody stems or roots of plants, and can sometimes be significant crop pests - a familiar one to home veggie gardeners might be the Squash Vine Borer (Melittia cucurbitae). These ones are Western Poplar Clearwing (Paranthrene robiniae), which target poplars, willows and birches throughout the west.
One fascinating side-effect of the reserve has been a previously unknown change in the behavior of the Sabretooth Blenny. Normally a visual and behavioral mimic of the Cortez Rainbow Wrasse, it ‘tricks’ much larger fishes into thinking that, like the wrasse, it is completely harmless, only to take a bite out of its unsuspecting victim and quickly swim away. However, this strategy only works if there are more wrasses than Sabretooth Blennies, so that potential victims are less likely to assume they are about to be bitten.
This nymph of a (false) katydid or bush-cricket, ~2-3 cm, looks like a giant ant (mimicry);however, ants (Hymenoptera) neither have such - long - antennae nor such strong hind-legs (femur)! The colouration supports the mimicry: the dark colour of antennae is interrupted by a broad white part, hence they seem to be short like the ones of ants. The same happens with the colourful neon-stripes that legs seem thin and the body seems constricted… like a real ant!
Subfamily: Phaneropterinae, Family: Tettigoniidae
Table Mountain National Park, Gunung Meja, West Papua, Indonesia
This adult female jumping spider (Phiale guttata) from the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica appears to be mimicking a velvet ant in the genus Hoplomutilla. Velvet ants are actually wingless wasps with a painful sting so mimicking them gives the spider protection from predators, which stay away…
The Ladybug Mimic Spider (Paraplectana duodecimmaculata)
Ladybugs are brightly colored with what biologists call aposematic (“warning”) coloration: a warning to predators to avoid them because they’re bad tasting (ladybugs contain toxic and foul-tasting alkaloids). Such coloration is common: other examples include black-and-orange striped bees and wasps, the orange-and-black monarch butterfly, and the striking pattern of the noxious striped skunk.
Once an aposematic model species is in place, there is an advantage to tasty and nontoxic species to evolve the patterns and colors of the model, for by so doing they avoid predation. This form of imitation is called Batesian mimicry after the British naturalist H.W. Bates. In this way, potential predators of the non-toxic (when ingested) spider avoid it, as it has evolved to look like the toxic (when ingested) ladybug.
Biomimicry is one of evolution’s most mind-blowing avenues of adaptation. It’s one thing to adapt thanks to maxing out the biological limits of speed, or selecting for the ever-longer, better-feeding necks of giraffes or the ability to use a new, untapped food source at the bottom of the ocean. But to become another life form? It shows us that natural selection is not only a powerful force, but also a delicate one, fine-tuning things like colors and patterns like only the finest human artists can.
Frogfish are the masters of camouflage, being able to mold their bodies to mimic sponges and corals. Some specimens even have filamentous patches simulating algal growth.
The frogfish uses its invisibility as a hunting method - a it flickers a small lure above its mouth, attracting prey to the seemingly safe ‘rock’. It is able to swallow prey in as fast as 6 milliseconds.
Only one of these two “sponges” is actually a sponge! Can you tell which one?
The yellow one on the left is a frogfish (Family: Antennariidae), a type of coral reef fish found around the world. This species mimics a sponge so that its prey—smaller sponge-eating fish—will approach, only to be eaten by the frogfish itself!
Many types of mimicry in the natural world involve prey animals disguising themselves to avoid predators. This frogfish’s mimicry to catch prey is called aggressive mimicry because it’s on the attack, not the defense.
As a defensive measure, some harmless species of animals mimic features of dangerous species to deter predators. This is known as batesian mimicry.
In this example, the viceroy butterfly (top) has evolved to look similar to the toxic monarch butterfly (bottom). However, it has reported that the viceroy is in fact more unpalatable than the monarch butterfly, which makes this case Müllerian mimicry.
Müllerian mimicry differs from batesian mimicry in that both species are dangerous.
Had gone for an afternoon stroll with my nephews when they pointed out this Euchromia polymena (Linnaeus), also called Wasp Moth, under a leaf. Realised it was laying eggs after taking a closer look. If you look closely you can see the eggs on the leaf.
The older boy held up the leaf for me to get clear shots. These moths look like wasps and so helps keep predators away, hence the name. The adult moths have black wings with three large orange patches and two small blue marks on each forewing, a blue head, scarlet prothorax, and bands of deep blue and of scarlet on the abdomen.
The bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) does not have nectar, but its labellum, imitating a female bee, attracts male bees who attempt to mate with it, and it gets its pollination. Charles Darwin found that in northern Europe, it is mostly self-fertilising.
Cleverly disguised to look like the venomous yellow-lipped sea krait, the banded snake eel is avoided by most predators. This allows it to hunt safely over sand flats and seagrass beds near coral reefs for small fish and crustaceans. Most individuals of this species are banded with broad black and white bands, but in some areas these eels have dark blotches between the bands. This color variant may eventually be identified as a different species. The banded snake eel has a pointed head with a pair of large tubular nostrils on the upper jaw that point downwards. This arrangement gives the fish an excellent sense of smell that allows it to seek out prey hidden beneath the sand surface.
With no fins except for very small pectoral fins, the banded snake eel swims by undulating its long body. When not hunting, it buries itself in the sand using the hard, pointed tip of its tail to burrow in tail-first. These fish are most active by night. They tend to remain in their burrows during the day and so are not often seen by divers.