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Mimicry in Animals: Definition, Types & Examples


All animal species try to increase their rate of survival and to achieve this goal in the most effective way is by looking similar to some other species. Mimicry is characterized by the superficial resemblance by two or more organisms which are not closely related taxonomically. It is not always between two or more organisms but it may also be when an organism displays behavioral or physical traits which resemble its surroundings. This phenomenon gives an advantage of protection from the predator to one or both organisms.

In the most studied examples, only one species gets the advantage by resembling the other (model) species. The phenomenon of mimicry in some butterflies was discovered in the 19th century which later included much more examples of plants and animals. In many cases, the organisms belonged to the same class, same order or even the same family. But the are many instances in which animals were mimicking some plants and vice versa. In most examples, the organisms were mimicking resemblance of some other organisms, however, some can also resemble in smell, sound or even biochemistry.


There are many different types of it which can be classified into two main types: Defensive mimicry and Non-defensive mimicry.

Defensive Mimicry

Those species which have a lot of predators have adapted defensive mimicry because their survival rates are low if they do not avoid their predators. There are three subtypes of defensive mimicry.

Batesian Mimicry

In Batesian mimicry, the mimetic organism (usually harmless) copies the morphological traits like coloration and sounds of some poisonous or venomous organism in order to deceive the predators by making them think of it as harmful. So, the mimetic organism avoids being preyed by the predator. This phenomenon is known aposematism.

For example, a non-poisonous Scarlet King Snake uses the aposematic coloration of the poisonous Coral Snake to avoid its predators.

Müllerian Mimicry

In Müllerian mimicry, two or more types of poisonous and unpalatable species develop similar appearances in order to get the advantage of shared protection. In contrast to Batesian mimicry, Müllerian mimicry involves only poisonous and unpalatable species.

Different geographical forms of Heliconius erato and H. melpomene are the examples of Müllerian mimicry.

Mertensian Mimicry

This is a very unusual form of mimicry in which a deadly species mimics an aposematic trait of a less harmful species. How would it be beneficial?

This type of mimicry helps in lowering the predation rates because a predator eating a deadly species dies so it will be unable to transmit the information that the prey is harmful so the predation rate remains high. But if the deadly species resembles a less harmful species and the prey eats the less harmful species, it will transmit information to the other species that “Don’t eat this prey, its harmful”.

Non-Defensive Mimicry

This type is not used for defense but serves other purposes. The most important type of non-defensive mimicry is:

Aggressive or Peckamian Mimicry

Unlike defensive mimicry, in Peckamian mimicry, the predators develop the traits of a harmless or even beneficial species so they get unnoticed by their prey or hostage.

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