Studies of Müllerian Mimicry and its Evolution in Burnet Moths and Heliconid Butterflies

  • J. R. G. Turner


Müllerian mimicry does not of itself lead to variation of pattern or colour within a species. The function of Müllerian mimicry is to protect its possessors, all of them unpalatable species, by their mutual resemblance. This it does first by reducing the number of individuals of each species which predators kill before they learn to avoid them (because only one pattern needs to be learned) and second, one assumes, by what the experimental psychologist calls secondary reinforcement: the predator’s avoidance of the unpleasant species can be strengthened merely by seeing its pattern, without the predator’s actually tasting it. The cornerstone of Müllerian mimicry is thus uniformity of pattern, and Müllerian mimics are not likely to be polymorphic, unlike Batesian mimics (palatable species resembling unpalatable ones), in which polymorphism is favoured by natural selection (Ford 1953). (For a general review of mimicry, see Ford 1964 or Wickler 1968.)


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© Blackwell Scientific Publications 1971

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