Survival of the fittest and struggle for existence are two of the famous terms in Biology. It is obvious that all the living life forms are subject to that statement once or many times during their lifetime. Life is a constant struggle for survival, whether the fight is for food or for mating or just to survive the challenges that environment throws at you. Only those who are best adapted to the ever changing environmental conditions survive and reproduce. To do so, different animals have devised different types of techniques to be well adapted or to just survive and thrive. One of the most interesting of such adaptation or behavior displayed in nature is Mimicry.
Mimicry refers to the similarities developed between non related species, which is used for beneficial reason, that can be for food or protection or survival. It’s sort of a survival adaptation with favorable changes which relates to a better suited animals in the wild.
The forms of mimicry can differ, morphological similarities, behavioral similarities, communicative similarities. Mimicry can be analogous to camouflage in a sense, when it comes to an anti-predator adaptation. A mechanism developed by an organism to counteract against its predator. In simplest of terms, a harmless prey mimics a harmful prey in front of a predator, in order to confirm its survival, because the predator hesitates to attack a harmful prey. For example, two snakes species found in Thailand, Assamese Mountain Snake and the Big-eyed Mountain Keelback , both of these Snakes are harmless, but when threatened they mimic a Cobra by raising its hood in a similar manner to that of a Cobra. Hence, it will manage to scare of its predator, which will assume that it’s a cobra.
The most common Mimicry is one where a harmless species mimic to be a harmful one or mimics to be something the predator won’t be interested in it, in order get avoided by its predator. A species can also blend into the environment in sort of a Camouflage like mimicry
Photo from Salyan, Western Nepal
In this photo we have butterfly mimicking a leaf, birds and lizards feed upon butterflies, they need to be cautious all the time about being seen by the predator. Not blending against the environment of not being able to trick the predator results in death. Here, the butterfly looks like a leaf, its predator might get confused thinking it’s a leaf. Also the butterflies can mimic a leaf that is toxic or unpalatable for the predator. An animal mimicking another with unpalatable taste is also called “Batesian Mimicry”.
Photo from Swayambhu, Kathmandu
“What a beautiful big Ant” someone might say after looking at the photo above, but if you look clearly, it’s actually a Spider not an ant (The legs are broken, before I caught it there were four pairs, but you can still see the remains). Here the Spider mimics to be an ant that way he can’t easily get into the ant colony, and the ant would definitely think the Spider is just another ant in the colony. This type of Mimicry is also Called a “Peckhamian Mimicry”.
The other forms of Mimicry can be in terms of communications, some species of birds tend to mimic different birds, mimicking a Birds of Prey would definitely be a plus point for survival when other predators are upon you. There are plenty of other examples of Mimicry in Nature. A stick insect looks so much like a stick that it manages to confuse its predators. The mimicry does exist among the plants, this article simply deals with basic mimicry shown by the animals not with plants.
All the species in the planet Earth are capable of understanding the threats that they are subjected to, and the Genetic and Natural selection working upon them make sure that the only one who can adapt will survive.
(Both the photos used in the article belongs to the author)