Irrespective of the selective advantage deriving from similar color pattern, the evolution of Batesian (and Müllerian) mimicry between distantly related insects groups has been perhaps facilitated by the availability to both models and mimics of similar pattern units more likely to be expressed, and to be modified in parallel ways, due to shared developmental constraints. We explore this hypothesis in a comparison of units of black-and-yellow color patterns between wasps (Vespidae) and those syrphids (Syrphidae) that are considered to be their Batesian mimics. As a proxy for evolvability we analyzed the co-occurrence of multiple color pattern within species (either as serial homologues or as expression of intraspecific variation) in 203 species of syrphids and 127 species of wasps. In both the wasps and the syrphids, the most frequent black-and-yellow patterns on the abdomen—all shared between the two insect groups—are also the most extensively linked in the networks of intraspecific co-occurrence, but are not the same in the two insect groups: in accordance with our hypothesis, this suggests positively biased evolvability.
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We are grateful to Mauro Bon and Marco Uliana for allowing us to work on Antonio Giordani Soika’s collection of wasps at the Natural History Museum, Venezia, to Christian F. Thompson for helping us with the access to the hoverfly materials in the collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, to the two reviewer of a first version of this paper for their insightful suggestions. A special acknowledgment to Jason Pardo for helping with the statistical analysis.
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Electronic supplementary material
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Histogram representing the simulated metric values of the wasp model (bars) resulting from the analysis using EcoSimR. The vertical continuous line represents the observed syrphids data. The vertical dash lines represent the cutpoints: 95% one-tailed long-dash and 95% two-tailed short-dash (JPEG 137 kb)
Histogram representing the simulated metric values of the syrphid model (bars) resulting from the analysis using EcoSimR. The vertical continuous line represents the observed wasps data. The vertical dash lines represent the cutpoints: 95% one-tailed long-dash and 95% two-tailed short-dash (JPEG 135 kb)
Black-and-yellow pattern recorded from 186 phenotypes in 127 species of Vespidae (XLSX 24 kb)
Black-and-yellow pattern recorded from 273 phenotypes in 203 species of Syrphidae (XLSX 31 kb)
Species-pattern occurrence matrix for wasps. Biogeographical data are included (XLSX 70 kb)
Species-pattern occurrence matrix for syrphids. Biogeographical data are included (XLSX 82 kb)
Pattern abundance for shared patterns (VII-XXII) in the species of wasp (W) and syrphids (S) by biogeographical province. Abbreviations: AFR, Afrotropic; AUS, Australasian, NEA, Nearctic, NEO, Neotropic, PAL, Palearctic. OR, Indomalayan; TOT, for sum of patterns within each biogegraphical province (DOCX 77 kb)
Statistical test, rho (ρ) and p-value of Spearman correlation between wasps and syrphids by biogeographical province. Abbreviations: AFR, Afrotropic; AUS, Australasian, NEA, Nearctic, NEO, Neotropic, PAL, Palearctic. OR, Indomalayan (DOCX 12 kb)
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Marchini, M., Sommaggio, D. & Minelli, A. Playing with Black and Yellow: The Evolvability of a Batesian Mimicry. Evol Biol 44, 100–112 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11692-016-9397-0
- Batesian mimicry