Monday, March 18, 2013

Solving the Puzzles of Mimicry in Nature

A New York Times article discusses the recent advances in the understanding of mimicry occurring in nature. This study comes from a similar location to that of Charles Darwin's studies: Brazil. The main individual of study is the butterfly. Mimicry is when an population begins to adapt similar colors, patterns and overall looks to another. In butterfly species, a non-poisonous population will begin to mimic the colors and patterns of poisonous populations. The benefits of this natural occurrence are numerous and help protect the non poisonous populations from becoming prey. Not only were non-poisonous populations mimicking poisonous ones, but poisonous species began mimicking each other. Mueller theorized that in this fashion, the butterflies formed a sort of "army" where all other species would know they were not the be eaten.

Until recently, however, how mimicry occurred was unknown. That was until Mueller proposed that mimicry stemmed from two sources: independent evolution or gene swapping. The genes controlling the causes of mimicry have been recently identified. Using this knowledge, it is safe to say that source of mimicry comes form both mechanisms working cooperatively. Although interbreeding is rarely seen between different populations, due to the extreme advantages of mimicry, one individual can spread the gene through the population quickly.

This mimicry is crucial to the survival of butterfly species in Brazil.

1 comment:

  1. An unusual trait found in some Heliconius species is their mating behavior known as pupal mating. The male butterflies seek out female pupae to mate prior to eclosion or with the newly emerged females.