Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/234

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212
CHAP.
DARWINISM

its station; and it has been seen to capture flies which came to the flowers.

But the most curious and beautiful case of alluring protection is that of a wingless Mantis in India, which is so formed and coloured as to resemble a pink orchis or some other fantastic flower. The whole insect is of a bright pink colour, the large and oval abdomen looking like the labellum of an orchid. On each side, the two posterior legs have immensely dilated and flattened thighs which represent the petals of a flower, while the neck and forelegs imitate the upper sepal and column of an orchid. The insect rests motionless, in this symmetrical attitude, among bright green foliage, being of course very conspicuous, but so exactly resembling a flower that butterflies and other insects settle upon it and are instantly captured. It is a living trap, baited in the most alluring manner to catch the unwary flower-haunting insects.[1]

The Coloration of Birds' Eggs.

The colours of birds' eggs have long been a difficulty on the theory of adaptive coloration, because, in so many cases it has not been easy to see what can be the use of the particular colours, which are often so bright and conspicuous that they seem intended to attract attention rather than to be concealed. A more careful consideration of the subject in all its bearings shows, however, that here too, in a great number of cases, we have examples of protective coloration. When, therefore, we cannot see the meaning of the colour, we may suppose that it has been protective in some ancestral form, and, not being hurtful, has persisted under changed conditions which rendered the protection needless.

We may divide all eggs, for our present purpose, into two

  1. A beautiful drawing of this rare insect, Hymenopus bicornis (in the nymph or active pupa state), was kindly sent me by Mr. Wood-Mason, Curator of the Indian Museum at Calcutta. A species, very similar to it, inhabits Java, where it is said to resemble a pink orchid. Other Mantidae, of the genus Gongylus, have the anterior part of the thorax dilated and coloured either white, pink, or purple; and they so closely resemble flowers that, according to Mr. Wood-Mason, one of them, having a bright violet-blue prothoracic shield, was found in Pegu by a botanist, and was for a moment mistaken by him for a flower. See Proc. Ent. Soc. Lond., 1878, p. liii.