Biology Forum Community General Discussion Mimicry – Mertensian/Emsleyan

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      Recently I’ve been getting quite interested in mimicry and the different types. I understand that this is a bit of a niche question, so I’m not expecting many responses!

      In Mertensian/Emsleysn mimicry, both a harmful (usually deadly) and harmless species model from (mimic) a moderately harmful one. The classic example is a deadly coral snake and a harmless milksnake (scarlet kingsnake) mimicking a moderately harmful false coral snake (the name ‘false’ is a bit misleading because it’s actually the other way round – the coral snake is the ‘false false coral snake’!). The reason the coral snake does this is because if it bites an organism, that organism will most likely die and so not ‘learn’ that the coral snake is best to avoid and so won’t be able to ‘teach’ their young/others of their species. This means that potential predators (e.g. birds) will ‘go for’ the coral snake as they do not know it is deadly. This is bad for the coral snake, so it has evolved to look like the moderately harmful false coral snake because if something is bitten by that, it will probably live, but be very ill and so learn that snakes that look like that are best avoided. The milksnake is fairly obvious to explain.

      Firstly, do I understand that right? Secondly, does anyone know any other examples? Finally – my main question – how do we know which snake mimics which snake and that it isn’t the other way round, or is this ‘type’ of mimicry merely a theory?

      Thanks in advance for any responses.

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