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Concept: Mimicry


A near-perfect mimetic association between a mecopteran insect species and a ginkgoalean plant species from the late Middle Jurassic of northeastern China recently has been discovered. The association stems from a case of mixed identity between a particular plant and an insect in the laboratory and the field. This confusion is explained as a case of leaf mimesis, wherein the appearance of the multilobed leaf of Yimaia capituliformis (the ginkgoalean model) was accurately replicated by the wings and abdomen of the cimbrophlebiid Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia (the hangingfly mimic). Our results suggest that hangingflies developed leaf mimesis either as an antipredator avoidance device or possibly as a predatory strategy to provide an antiherbivore function for its plant hosts, thus gaining mutual benefit for both the hangingfly and the ginkgo species. This documentation of mimesis is a rare occasion whereby exquisitely preserved, co-occurring fossils occupy a narrow spatiotemporal window that reveal likely reciprocal mechanisms which plants and insects provide mutual defensive support during their preangiospermous evolutionary histories.

Concepts: Evolution, Insect, Plant, Mimicry, Leaf, Lepidoptera, Ginkgo, Batesian mimicry


The great majority of plant species in the tropics require animals to achieve pollination, but the exact role of floral signals in attraction of animal pollinators is often debated. Many plants provide a floral reward to attract a guild of pollinators, and it has been proposed that floral signals of non-rewarding species may converge on those of rewarding species to exploit the relationship of the latter with their pollinators. In the orchid family (Orchidaceae), pollination is almost universally animal-mediated, but a third of species provide no floral reward, which suggests that deceptive pollination mechanisms are prevalent. Here, we examine floral colour and shape convergence in Neotropical plant communities, focusing on certain food-deceptive Oncidiinae orchids (e.g. Trichocentrum ascendens and Oncidium nebulosum) and rewarding species of Malpighiaceae. We show that the species from these two distantly related families are often more similar in floral colour and shape than expected by chance and propose that a system of multifarious floral mimicry-a form of Batesian mimicry that involves multiple models and is more complex than a simple one model-one mimic system-operates in these orchids. The same mimetic pollination system has evolved at least 14 times within the species-rich Oncidiinae throughout the Neotropics. These results help explain the extraordinary diversification of Neotropical orchids and highlight the complexity of plant-animal interactions.

Concepts: Evolution, Insect, Tropics, Mimicry, Polymorphism, Batesian mimicry, Orchidaceae, Oncidium


People have a tendency to unconsciously mimic other’s actions. This mimicry has been regarded as a prosocial response which increases social affiliation. Previous research on social priming of mimicry demonstrated an assimilative relationship between mimicry and prosociality of the primed construct: prosocial primes elicit stronger mimicry whereas antisocial primes decrease mimicry. The present research extends these findings by showing that assimilative and contrasting prime-to-behavior effect can both happen on mimicry. Specifically, experiment 1 showed a robust contrast priming effect where priming antisocial behaviors induces stronger mimicry than priming prosocial behaviors. In experiment 2, we manipulated the self-relatedness of the pro/antisocial primes and further revealed that prosocial primes increase mimicry only when the social primes are self-related whereas antisocial primes increase mimicry only when the social primes are self-unrelated. In experiment 3, we used a novel cartoon movie paradigm to prime pro/antisocial behaviors and manipulated the perspective-taking when participants were watching these movies. Again, we found that prosocial primes increase mimicry only when participants took a first-person point of view whereas antisocial primes increase mimicry only when participants took a third-person point of view, which replicated the findings in experiment 2. We suggest that these three studies can be best explained by the active-self theory, which claims that the direction of prime-to-behavior effects depends on how primes are processed in relation to the ‘self’.

Concepts: Perception, Mimicry, Theory, Antisocial personality disorder, Prime number, Priming


Venom systems have evolved on multiple occasions across the animal kingdom, and they can act as key adaptations to protect animals from predators [1]. Consequently, venomous animals serve as models for a rich source of mimicry types, as non-venomous species benefit from reductions in predation risk by mimicking the coloration, body shape, and/or movement of toxic counterparts [2-5]. The frequent evolution of such deceitful imitations provides notable examples of phenotypic convergence and are often invoked as classic exemplars of evolution by natural selection. Here, we investigate the evolution of fangs, venom, and mimetic relationships in reef fishes from the tribe Nemophini (fangblennies). Comparative morphological analyses reveal that enlarged canine teeth (fangs) originated at the base of the Nemophini radiation and have enabled a micropredatory feeding strategy in non-venomous Plagiotremus spp. Subsequently, the evolution of deep anterior grooves and their coupling to venom secretory tissue provide Meiacanthus spp. with toxic venom that they effectively employ for defense. We find that fangblenny venom contains a number of toxic components that have been independently recruited into other animal venoms, some of which cause toxicity via interactions with opioid receptors, and result in a multifunctional biochemical phenotype that exerts potent hypotensive effects. The evolution of fangblenny venom has seemingly led to phenotypic convergence via the formation of a diverse array of mimetic relationships that provide protective (Batesian mimicry) and predatory (aggressive mimicry) benefits to other fishes [2, 6]. Our results further our understanding of how novel morphological and biochemical adaptations stimulate ecological interactions in the natural world.

Concepts: Natural selection, Evolution, Predation, Mimicry, Toxin, Adaptation, Venom, Batesian mimicry


Only seven types of mammals are known to be venomous, including slow lorises (Nycticebus spp.). Despite the evolutionary significance of this unique adaptation amongst Nycticebus, the structure and function of slow loris venom is only just beginning to be understood. Here we review what is known about the chemical structure of slow loris venom. Research on a handful of captive samples from three of eight slow loris species reveals that the protein within slow loris venom resembles the disulphide-bridged heterodimeric structure of Fel-d1, more commonly known as cat allergen. In a comparison of N. pygmaeus and N. coucang, 212 and 68 compounds were found, respectively. Venom is activated by combining the oil from the brachial arm gland with saliva, and can cause death in small mammals and anaphylactic shock and death in humans. We examine four hypotheses for the function of slow loris venom. The least evidence is found for the hypothesis that loris venom evolved to kill prey. Although the venom’s primary function in nature seems to be as a defense against parasites and conspecifics, it may also serve to thwart olfactory-orientated predators. Combined with numerous other serpentine features of slow lorises, including extra vertebra in the spine leading to snake-like movement, serpentine aggressive vocalisations, a long dark dorsal stripe and the venom itself, we propose that venom may have evolved to mimic cobras (Naja sp.). During the Miocene when both slow lorises and cobras migrated throughout Southeast Asia, the evolution of venom may have been an adaptive strategy against predators used by slow lorises as a form of Mullerian mimicry with spectacled cobras.

Concepts: Evolution, Mimicry, Loris, Lorises and galagos, Slow loris, Pygmy Slow Loris, Adaptation, Sunda Loris


Everyone has their own unique version of the visual world and there has been growing interest in understanding the way that personality shapes one’s perception. Here, we investigated meaningful visual experiences in relation to the personality dimension of schizotypy. In a novel approach to this issue, a non-clinical sample of subjects (total n = 197) were presented with calibrated images of scenes, cartoons and faces of varying visibility embedded in noise; the spatial properties of the images were constructed to mimic the natural statistics of the environment. In two experiments, subjects were required to indicate what they saw in a large number of unique images, both with and without actual meaningful structure. The first experiment employed an open-ended response paradigm and used a variety of different images in noise; the second experiment only presented a series of faces embedded in noise, and required a forced-choice response from the subjects. The results in all conditions indicated that a high positive schizotypy score was associated with an increased tendency to perceive complex meaning in images comprised purely of random visual noise. Individuals high in positive schizotypy seemed to be employing a looser criterion (response bias) to determine what constituted a ‘meaningful’ image, while also being significantly less sensitive at the task than those low in positive schizotypy. Our results suggest that differences in perceptual performance for individuals high in positive schizotypy are not related to increased suggestibility or susceptibility to instruction, as had previously been suggested. Instead, the observed reductions in sensitivity along with increased response bias toward seeing something that is not there, indirectly implicated subtle neurophysiological differences associated with the personality dimension of schizotypy, that are theoretically pertinent to the continuum of schizophrenia and hallucination-proneness.

Concepts: Psychology, Understanding, Perception, Sense, Mind, Mimicry, Information, Philosophy of perception


Pollination of several angiosperms is based on deceit. In such systems, the flowers advertise a reward that ultimately is not provided. We report on a previously unknown pollination/mimicry system discovered in deceptive Aristolochia rotunda (Aristolochiaceae). Pollinators were collected in the natural habitat and identified. Flower scent and the volatiles of insects (models) potentially mimicked were analyzed by chemical analytical techniques. Electrophysiological and behavioral tests on the pollinators identified the components that mediate the plant-pollinator interaction and revealed the model of the mimicry system. The main pollinators of A. rotunda were female Chloropidae. They are food thieves that feed on secretions of true bugs (Miridae) while these are eaten by arthropod predators. Freshly killed mirids and Aristolochia flowers released the same scent components that chloropids use to find their food sources. Aristolochia exploits these components to deceive their chloropid pollinators. Aristolochia and other trap flowers were believed to lure saprophilous flies and mimic brood sites of pollinators. We demonstrate for A. rotunda, and hypothesize for other deceptive angiosperms, the evolution of a different, kleptomyiophilous pollination strategy. It involves scent mimicry and the exploitation of kleptoparasitic flies as pollinators. Our findings suggest a reconsideration of plants assumed to show sapromyiophilous pollination.

Concepts: Insect, Mimicry, Pollination, Flower, Lepidoptera, Pollen, Deception, Aristolochia


Mimicry refers to adaptive similarity between a mimic organism and a model. Mimicry in animals is rather common, whereas documented cases in plants are rare, and the associated benefits are seldom elucidated [1, 2]. We show the occurrence of leaf mimicry in a climbing plant endemic to a temperate rainforest. The woody vine Boquila trifoliolata mimics the leaves of its supporting trees in terms of size, shape, color, orientation, petiole length, and/or tip spininess. Moreover, sequential leaf mimicry occurs when a single individual vine is associated with different tree species. Leaves of unsupported vines differed from leaves of climbing plants closely associated with tree foliage but did not differ from those of vines climbing onto leafless trunks. Consistent with an herbivory-avoidance hypothesis, leaf herbivory on unsupported vines was greater than that on vines climbing on trees but was greatest on vines climbing onto leafless trunks. Thus, B. trifoliolata gains protection against herbivory not merely by climbing and thus avoiding ground herbivores [3] but also by climbing onto trees whose leaves are mimicked. Unlike earlier cases of plant mimicry or crypsis, in which the plant roughly resembles a background or color pattern [4-7] or mimics a single host [8, 9], B. trifoliolata is able to mimic several hosts.

Concepts: Plant, Animal, Tree, Mimicry, Fern, Leaf, Plant morphology, Vine


Bottlenose dolphins use auditory (or echoic) information to recognise their environments, and many studies have described their echolocation perception abilities. However, relatively few systematic studies have examined their visual perception. We tested dolphins on a visual-matching task using two-dimensional geometric forms including various features. Based on error patterns, we used multidimensional scaling to analyse perceptual similarities among stimuli. In addition to dolphins, we conducted comparable tests with terrestrial species: chimpanzees were tested on a computer-controlled matching task and humans were tested on a rating task. The overall perceptual similarities among stimuli in dolphins were similar to those in the two species of primates. These results clearly indicate that the visual world is perceived similarly by the three species of mammals, even though each has adapted to a different environment and has differing degrees of dependence on vision.

Concepts: Human, Visual perception, Perception, Mammal, Mimicry, Animal echolocation, Bottlenose dolphin, Philosophy of perception


The space occupied by evolutionarily advanced ant societies can be subdivided into functional sites, such as broodchambers; peripheral nest chambers; kitchen middens; and foraging routes. Many predators and social parasites are specially adapted to make their living inside specific niches created by ants. In particular, the foraging paths of certain ant species are frequented by predatory and kleptoparasitic arthropods, including one striking example, the nitidulid beetle, Amphotis marginata. Adults of this species obtain the majority of their nutrition by acting as a kind of “highwayman” on the foraging trails of the ant Lasius fuliginosus, where they solicit regurgitation from food laden ant-workers by mimicking the ant’s food-begging signals. Employing food labeled with the radio isotope 32P, we assessed the quantities of food the beetles siphoned-off of food-laden ants, and we investigated the site preferences, behavioral mechanisms and possible morphological adaptations underlying the food kleptoparasitism of A. marginata.

Concepts: Insect, Symbiosis, Mimicry, Beetle, Ant, Charles Darwin, Beetles, Mutualism