Mimicry is responsible for some of the most striking adaptations found in nature. It occurs across a huge diversity of taxonomic groups and exploits all manner of sensory systems – from sight to sound to smell. Classic examples of mimicry include the close visual resemblance between the eggs of some brood-parasitic birds and those of their hosts, the rattlesnake-like hisses produced by burrowing owls when confronted with potential predators, and the deceptive sex pheromones produced by some orchids to lure insect pollinators. But how are these varied examples of mimicry related to one another? Are they all driven by the same underlying processes or are there fundamental differences? Gabriel Jamie proposes a new conceptual framework by which to position instances of mimicry across these seemingly disparate contexts. The framework draws attention to key commonalities and differences in the processes underpinning the mimicry while also highlighting evolutionary paths along which different types of mimicry can transition. The full paper is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B and a longer summary can be found on the Department of Zoology website.
Our paper ‘Why and how to apply Weber’s Law to coevolution and mimicry’ has been published in the journal Evolution. This perspectives paper, written by Tanmay Dixit, Eleanor Caves, Claire Spottiswoode, and Nicholas Horrocks, argues that Weber’s Law of proportional processing can lead to otherwise counterintuitive predictions about the evolutionary trajectories of mimicry systems. Weber’s Law states that when the magnitude of a stimulus is large, it is more difficult to discriminate a change or difference from that stimulus. In other words, relative differences are more salient than absolute differences. We show that Weber’s Law could have implications for mimicry: when stimulus magnitudes are high, it should be more difficult to discriminate a model from a mimic. This leads to testable predictions about evolutionary trajectories of models and mimics. We also present a framework for testing Weber’s Law and its implications for coevolution.