The New Student's Reference Work/Mimicry

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Mim′icry, the imitative resemblance of one animal to another or to some inanimate object for which it may be mistaken. This is also called protective resemblance, inasmuch as animals escape notice through this form of imitation and are protected from their enemies. A wide range of cases occurs in nature. Certain insects resemble leaves, others twigs and knots. Animals of the desert have a color merging into their surroundings; many animals, like lizards, adapt their colors to their surroundings and so escape observation. Color resemblance is also carried further. Certain butterflies and caterpillars are not eaten by birds on account of their unpleasant taste. The birds learn to distinguish them by their bright “warning” colors and to leave them alone. Others forms, without noxious taste, imitate these colors and escape. A harmless animal sometimes imitates a stinging or poisonous one and is shunned. The animals protected in these various ways are, as a rule, unconscious of their imitation. Protective mimicry may be an important factor in the preservation of species. See Poulton's The Colors of Animals.


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PROTECTIVE MIMICRY AMONG INSECTS