Moths Add a New Wrinkle to the Mimicry Concept

I’m sure you are all familiar with mimicry, specifically the Batesian form where one species mimics the appearance of another, deadlier, species. Usually, mimicry is thought of in terms of color and color pattern, but a recent study in PNAS adds an interesting wrinkle – some moths mimic the sounds of poisonus or bad tasting moths to avoid predation by bats:

In the study, other types of moths that were similar in size to the sound-emitting moths, but did not make sounds, were gobbled up by the bats.
The researcher trained free-flying bats to hunt moths in view of two high-speed infrared video cameras to record predator-prey interactions that occur in fractions of a second. He also recorded the sounds emitted from each moth, as well as the sounds made by the bats.
All the bats quickly learned to avoid the noxious moths first offered to them, associating the warning sounds with bad taste. They then avoided a second sound-producing species even though it was not chemically protected. This is similar to the way birds avoid butterflies that look like the bad-tasting Monarch.

A bonus to the research is that there are movies!


One Response

  1. I knew a college student who bought a state police highway cruiser at auction. He had the bullet holes patched and the doors repainted. He was able to commute on I-80 doing 90, always careful to give other SP highway cruisers a wave of recognition.
    So, the idea wasn’t original with him ….

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