Category Archives: mimicry

A stunning (possible) case of mimicry: bird nestling resembles a toxic caterpillar in appearance and behavior

There is at least one species of bird that is toxic to predators and shows it off by displaying bright “aposematic” (warning) colors. That one, the hooded pitohui of New Guinea (Pitohui dicrhous), was discovered to be toxic by Jack Dumbacher, one of our grad students at Chicago, and now Curator of Ornithology at the Cal Academy […]

Fantastic slo-mo video of butterfly courtship

by Matthew Cobb This video was posted on Instagram and tw**ted by @phil_torres, who took the video *and edited it* on his iPhone 6. It really is quite astonishing! Phil reckons the species is Heliconius ismenius. The male is flying, the female is resting. The movement of the male’s abdomen up and down involves casting pheromones […]

Here’s the caterpillar!

Did anybody spot the caterpillar? It’s out there in plain sight, I tell you! It’s circled below. If you couldn’t see it, what do you think the chances are a bird would? These photos and their explanation are from Mark Sturtevant, who posed the puzzle earlier: The hidden caterpillar is of course the mature larva of […]

Fishes mimic leaves

  In about three weeks I’ll be giving a popular lecture on evolution in Bulgaria—that’s right, Bulgaria! I’m very excited, for who ever gets to go to that country? I will, and will spend a week travelling about, seeing the sights, consuming the local comestibles (including the famous yogurt), and, of course, meeting the local biologists. […]

Spot the tawny frogmouths

Yes, there are two of them here. From Frans de Waal’s public Facebook photos, via reader Steve. There are two birds here: a remarkable example of camouflage: This species (Podargus strigoides), a denizen of Australia and Tasmania, is famous for camouflaging itself and closing its eyes. As Wikipedia notes: One of the best examples of […]

Spot the platypus!

JAC: Matthew left me this as his final “gift” before his Lake District “hols.” It’s a gift in the same sense that a dead rodent left by your cat on the doorstep is a “gift.”  But based on this post, I’ve removed “seeing a platypus” from my bucket list. by Matthew Cobb No nightjars, no […]

Here’s the nightjar!

JAC: Many readers spotted the nightjar in yesterday’s post. Either it was too obvious, or you’re getting better. Here’s Matthew’s answer: by Matthew Cobb Jolyon Troscianko of the University of Exeter, whose great web-site was the source of the photo of the fiery-necked nightjar, also helpfully provides this highlighted version of the photo:   Here’s […]

Spot the nightjars!

JAC:  Matthew has gone off to the Lake District for a week’s “hols,” but he left me with a post so I wouldn’t go dry. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s a “Spot the nightjar” post.  Srsly!  I’ll give the answer either tomorrow or this evening.   by Matthew Cobb OK, […]

Here are the crabs. . . I think

by Matthew Cobb Here are four crabs from the spot-the-crabs-post (circled). As I said, I wasn’t sure where they all were. I’m not entirely confident of the one in the middle on the left… And there are probably more! Here’s a very confident set of spottings from reader Heather Hastie on the comments of the original post, who […]

Spot the crabs

[JAC: Sorry, folks; I can’t stop the man. It’s a form of madness.] by Matthew Cobb This picture appeared on Tw*tter, taken by Matt Nicholson, aka @SharkyNichol, whose bio says “Marine biologist, ecologist, and conservationist. From #Miami, now an MSc student at Uni of Exeter”.  His tw**t read: “Come try and find the camouflaging crabs #scienceinthesquare […]


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