Menagerie of Mimics: Animals Don a Variety of Disguises to Avoid Predation [Slide Show]
Animals employ many kinds of disguises for self-protection, including chemical and acoustic mimicry of other species
Credits: Michael Aw
SHAPE-SHIFTER: Like most octopuses,
Thaumoctopus mimicus, the mimic octopus, can change color to blend in with its surroundings. But it also impersonates at least one other species—a flounder—by holding its tentacles together in a flat, flounderlike shape and swimming in the flounder's undulating way. Stephen Childs/Flickr
TOXIC-SOUNDING: Whereas a diurnal (daytime-active) insect can advertise its toxicity with warning coloration, that strategy would not work for a nocturnal moth trying to avoid a predator hunting in the dark. Tiger moths thus emit warning clicks that bats learn to associate with unpalatable prey.
Courtesy of Wake Forest University
SMELL NO EVIL: The large blue butterfly depends on an ant species it mimics during its caterpillar phase. Large blue caterpillars copy both a chemical signal of the ant and an acoustic one to trick the ants into sheltering and feeding them.
SAFE SNAKE: The harmless scarlet king snake (above) resembles the venomous Eastern coral snake.
CARBON COPY: The viceroy butterfly (above) and monarch butterfly, which are both toxic, share the same warning pattern, which helps to spread the message to predators that butterflies with this patterning are unpalatable.