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The Importance of Mimic Pattern and Position in an Artificial Mimicry Situation by

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"Batesian" mimicry was studied in a laboratory situation using caged starlings as the predator and painted mealworms as the artificial prey. Various mimic patterns bearing imperfect resemblances to the model, with the patterns on segments of the mimic different from those of the model, were offered to the birds to test whether the birds responded differently to the various combinations of patterns and positions. The experimental procedure consisted of offering each bird 50 models, 50 mimics, and 100 edibles over ten-day period. Models were all painted with a uniform green pattern and dipped in quinine dihydrochloride. Mimics were painted green with one of eight patterns (seven imperfect, and one perfect imitation) and dipped into distilled water. Edibles were painted with colorless paint and dipped into distilled water. Each mealworm was presented singly, and the bird responded by pecking, eating or not touching the worm. The mimics were eaten significantly less than the edibles, and the birds were able to generalize from the model to the mimics. Even the least perfect mimic escaped some predation. The time required to eat mimics was significantly greater than the time required to eat edibles. The birds could discriminate between some patterns and positions which were eaten less often than were others. Three pattern groups (APBFC, DE, and G) resulted. Position was also shown to be important. The results of this study support the micromutational theory of evolution.

Affiliations: 1: Dept. Zoology, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA


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