Batesian Mimicry in Hoverflies (Syrphidae): How Closely do they Resemble their Hymenopteran Models

Batesian Mimicry in Hoverflies (Syrphidae): How Closely do they Resemble their Hymenopteran Models

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Batesian mimicry occurs in many Hoverfly species to protect them from various predators. However, the degree to which the mimic varies depending on the species of hoverfly and who their model is. The mimics of bumblebees are typically perceived as perfect mimics while those of honeybee and wasp may be called ‘poor’ mimics. It is thought that natural selection would have further improved the mimetic similarity of these species; however this is not the case. This has resulted in the evolution of ‘imperfect’ mimicry, which many researchers say may not even be mimics at all. However, most if not all of the hoverflies labelled as mimetic actually are mimics. The apparently poor nature of their resemblance does not prevent them from obtaining at least some protection. Different mimics have taken on different aspects of the model to obtain this. Visually poor mimics tend to behave more like the model than visually good mimics do. All three groups of mimics contain both good and poor mimics, with some mimics being remarkably accurate and having a close morphological and behavioral resemblance. At least some of the ‘poor’ mimics may resemble their models much closer in birds’ perception than in a humans’.

Batesian mimicry involves a palatable, unprotected species (the mimic) that closely resembles an unpalatable or protected species (the model).[5] The traditional mimic theory suggests that the predator will meet the unpalatable species and learn to stay away from it and anything that looks like it.[5] Thus, the palatable species most closely resembling the model will be protected from the predator and pass on their traits, becoming mimics of the unpalatable species through natural selection. It has been widely accepted that hoverflies (...

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...5. Retrieved May 12, 2014 from

Penney, Heather D., Christopher Hassall, Jeffrey H. Skevington, Brent Lamborn, and Thomas N. Sherratt. (2014) The Relationship between Morphological and Behavioral Mimicry in Hover Flies (Diptera: Syrphidae). The American Naturalist, 183.2, 281-89. DOI: 10.1086/674612

Polidori, Carlo, José L. Nieves-Aldrey, Francis Gilbert, and Graham E. Rotheray. (2014) Hidden in Taxonomy: Batesian Mimicry by a Syrphid Fly towards a Patagonian Bumblebee. In Ed. Jacobus Boomsma and David Roubik. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 7.1, 32-40. DOI: 10.1111/icad.12028

Rashed, A., M.i. Khan, J.w. Dawson, J.e. Yack, and T.n. Sherratt. (2009) Do Hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae) Sound like the Hymenoptera They Morphologically Resemble? Behavioral Ecology, 20.2, 396-402. DOI: 10.1093/beheco/arn148

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