Chair of Forest Zoology and Entomology, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg i.Br. Chair of Forest Zoology and Entomology
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg i.Br.

Chair of Forest Zoology and Entomology
Freiburg i.Br.

Aposematism and Mimicry

"Wasp mimicry differently explained" pdf

Boppré M, Vane-Wright RI, Wickler W (2017) A hypothesis to explain accuracy of wasp resemblances. Ecol Evol 7:73-81 link

Mimicry is one of the oldest concepts in biology, but it still presents many puzzles and continues to be widely debated. Simulation of wasps with a yellow-black abdominal pattern by other insects (commonly called “wasp mimicry”) is traditionally considered a case of resemblance of unprofitable by profitable prey causing educated predators to avoid models and mimics to the advantage of both (Figure 1a). However, as wasps themselves are predators of insects, wasp mimicry can also be seen as a case of resemblance to one's own potential antagonist. We here propose an additional hypothesis to Batesian and Müllerian mimicry (both typically involving selection by learning vertebrate predators; cf. Table 1) that reflects another possible scenario for the evolution of multifold and in particular very accurate resemblances to wasps: an innate, visual inhibition of aggression among look-alike wasps, based on their social organization and high abundance. We argue that wasp species resembling each other need not only be Müllerian mutualists and that other insects resembling wasps need not only be Batesian mimics, but an innate ability of wasps to recognize each other during hunting is the driver in the evolution of a distinct kind of masquerade, in which model, mimic, and selecting agent belong to one or several species (Figure 1b). Wasp mimics resemble wasps not (only) to be mistaken by educated predators but rather, or in addition, to escape attack from their wasp models. Within a given ecosystem, there will be selection pressures leading to masquerade driven by wasps and/or to mimicry driven by other predators that have to learn to avoid them. Different pressures by guilds of these two types of selective agents could explain the widely differing fidelity with respect to the models in assemblages of yellow jackets and yellow jacket look-alikes.

Entomology Today

Aposematism and mimicry connect various of our reseach themes. PA-pharmacophagy and the storage of PAs as protective chemicals are an important basis for aposematism in Danainae, Ithomiinae and many Arctiinae, and associated mimicry relationships seem to be the cause for particularly elaborate male pheromone systems (at least in butterflies). The chemoecology of pyrrolizidine alkaloids integrates intra- and interspecific communication (because of the dual use of PAs, as defensive chemicals and as precursors for male pheromones ).