Evolution Puzzle: Why Bad Mimics Haven't Died Out Yet

In evolutionary biology, mimicry is what happens when an organism evolved to look like something else, usually to avoid predators. For example, the harmless milk snake look like the venomous coral snake.

Obviously, the advantage of good mimicry is obvious - but why do so many animals get by with being bad mimics?

Darwinian selection would suggest that over time the hoverflies that sounded most like wasps would be preferentially selected until a species emerged that sounded very nearly, if not exactly, like the creature it was trying to impersonate.

In contrast, the species that were poor mimics would all be eaten and die out.

The new Canadian research suggests why this hasn't happened. [...] The scientists found that the larger the hoverfly species, the closer it resembled the emulated wasp or bee. They also found that the smaller species were not very good mimics at all.

"If you are a small hoverfly then birds are not going to be very interested in you," Prof Sherratt explained.

"You are a relatively unprofitable meal and so the selection on mimicry is relatively weak.

Link (Image: Andrew Young)


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Actually, the Coral snake mimics the Milksnake. Animals do not survive being bitten by a Coral snake (because of the strong venom) so they never learn to fear them. Milksnakes have a painful bite that animals remember.
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