What exactly is tradition? | know.de

Ants as prey are avoided by many predators. This also benefits these types of tropical cricket.

The goal of every living thing is to survive and reproduce. And as Darwin discovered, those who adapt best always survive. One form of adaptation devised by Mother Nature to increase the chances of survival is what is known as mimicry. The word imitate was taken from the English language and comes from imitate – to imitate. This is a good thing, because this is the essence of imitation: imitation – with the aim of deceiving.

The origin of the tradition

The original and perhaps the most famous form of the imitation is the so-called Batissi imitation. It is named after its discoverer, Henry Walter Bates, who traveled to Brazil to explore the tropical rainforests there. By doing so, he discovered two species of butterflies that were similar in appearance but unrelated that were equally avoided by predators. However, it was found that only one species is actually poisonous. So predators considered other species to be poisonous only because of their appearance and were not eaten. He called this clever tradition the principle of survival.

For this principle to prevail in species, a very specific constellation is always required. Three participants play an important role here: the dangerous model, the hunter and the imitator.

The hunter must experience that dangerous prey is harming him in order to avoid it in the future. This is the only way he’ll avoid samples that look the same or nearly the same, just to be on the safe side. Of these, in turn, more survive and reproduce faster than harmless species. As a result, the appearance of harmless species becomes more and more similar to the dangerous one, and imitation prevails.

However, there should always be a sufficient number of dangerous examples so that the hunter does not encounter harmless species too often. Because it was then discovered that searching only for these supposedly dangerous species was worthwhile and that the advantage of survival would be gone.

Hoverfly on flower

Many species of hovercraft have the shapes and markings of a bumblebee, wasp or bee, and thus pretend to be unable to defend themselves.

From wasps and bats

Pat’s observation in the Brazilian rainforest was not an isolated case. It is now known that many species use mimicry to protect themselves from predators.

A well-known example from Europe is the camouflaged hoverfly, which is also called the hoverfly. The hornet is one of the most resilient insects, so it’s no wonder that it is a popular target for imitation. Anyone who has been stung by a wasp will in the future give a wide berth to any insect that appears even from a distance. That is exactly why other insects imitate the wasp almost 300 times, in addition to the hovercraft, for example, by the wood tick and the wasp moth.

But deterring predators isn’t just about appearance. There are also audio versions of the imitation. While this may have been known for a long time in insects, for example, researchers recently came across this very rare form of mammalian mimicry for the first time.

In this case, the mammal was a bat. Loud noises can be heard from these animals, which otherwise only make high-pitched sounds that humans cannot hear for guidance purposes. Because this buzz sounded just like a hornet’s sizzle, the researchers compared the audio recordings of bats to the sounds of real hornets. It turns out that bats mimic the menacing buzz of wasps to protect themselves from owls. Because owls are already afraid of wasps – especially after bad experiences – bats can therefore effectively protect themselves using this ingenious strategy.

Mexican triangle snake

There are about 75 unusual species of colorful coral snakes on the American continent, which can be easily confused but are not closely related. In this case, according to an expert on reptiles, the highly poisonous and non-venomous species have adapted to moderately poisonous ones.

reptiles4all, Getty Images

Müller, Mertens and Co.

Although patissy mimicry is the oldest and most popular form, there are other types of imitation. This includes, for example, the Müllerche simulation, which is also named after its discoverer. It is not the innocuous species that imitate the dangerous species, but the species that resemble them all as dangerous or unpalatable. The advantage here is that the predator has only one bad experience and will automatically avoid all similar species. This increases the chances of survival for everyone.

There is also a Mertensian tradition, in which the deadly and harmless species are adapted to rather dangerous ones. Because a predator can only have bad experiences with moderately dangerous species and learn to avoid them. With a deadly species, he would rather die on the spot and take absolutely no damage from a harmless species.

Anglerfish in the sea off Lofoten

The front fin of the monkfish stretches like a whip and has a worm-like extension at its end, which is used to attract prey.

Mikael Erickson, Getty Images

All of these forms of mimicry are summarized under a term called protective mimicry. Typical for this is to deceive a predator in order to protect itself. But they also work in the opposite direction: in the case of temptation or simulating an attack, some species try to lure others to achieve their purposes. This could be a plant that mimics a female insect to attract a male and thus be pollinated, or a predator like a monk that lure its prey with some kind of self-baiting stick.

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