Mullerian Mimicry

Mullerian mimicry [9] differs from Batesian mimicry because it involves several organisms that are all toxic, distasteful, or protected to some degree, and resemble one another so that a predator avoids all of them. Consequently the mimicry is most effective when the component species are numerous. They are usually related species belonging to a broad taxonomic group, e.g., heliconiid butterflies or social wasps, unlike many Batesian mimics whose models can belong to different taxa, e.g., dipterans or coleopterans mimicking hymenopterans, or in the case of butterflies, belonging to two distinct families. In determining which type of mimicry we are dealing with, it is essential to determine the palatability status of a potential mimic. This can be problematic as suggested by Brower [10] and can lead to incorrect assumptions. Ritland [11] challenged a classical example of Batesian mimicry in temperate zone butterflies; the Florida viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus floridensis) was frequently quoted as being a Batesian mimic of the Florida queen (Danaeus gilippus berenice). However, experiments showed that both species were unpalatable, suggesting they were Mullerian mimics.

Batesian and Mullerian mimicry are fundamentally different; in Batesian mimicry deception is involved and the mimic benefits potentially at the expense of the predator and the model, but in Mullerian mimicry, all three species benefit. Therefore, as Fisher [12] first argued, natural selection would be expected to favor quite different adaptive strategies. It has been argued by some [13,14] that Mullerian mimicry cannot be regarded as a true type of mimicry because there is no deception involved.

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