Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Tony Eales from Brisbane sent some lovely photos of models and mimics in an email called “Lycid beetle mimicry”. These beetles, in the family Lycidae, are toxic. When a tasty species (“mimic”) imitates a toxic one, it’s called Batesian mimicry. When distasteful species resemble each other, it’s called Müllerian mimicry. All readers should have learned these terms by now, and understand how such mimicry evolves (hint: it involves a predator who can either learn or has evolved to avoid a certain pattern). The pictures below show both types of mimicry. Tony’s notes are indented.

Lycid beetles or Net-Winged Beetles (Family Lycidae) must taste terrible as a large complex of mimicry has risen up around their basic look. There are even moths that mimic them. [JAC: see last picture.]

They have very interesting looking larvae. The first pic is of a larva I photographed in Borneo;  they’re commonly known as “Trilobite Beetles”  at this stage.

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The next two pics are of Lycid Beetles I’ve seen here in Queensland, Australia.

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The next three I think are members of the family Oedemeridae, Pollen-Eating Beetles or False-Blister Beetles. These too are distasteful to birds.

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The next is a Belid Weevil, probably Rhinotia haemoptera, I’d been looking for this mimic for a while but I only managed a pretty ordinary pic before it flew off.

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Next is a Yellow Soldier Beetle Chauliognathus sp.: another distasteful species.

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Lastly a Longicorn Beetle in the family Cerambycidae. This is a diverse family which includes lots of mimics of wasps, ants and, in this case, lycid beetles.

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JAC: And here, from Project Noah, is a tiger moth that appears to be mimicking a lycid.

The phenomenon of diverse and unrelated species mimicking either a model or each other (if they’re all noxious or toxic) is called a “mimicry ring”. (Such rings can involve both Batesian and  Müllerian mimicry). Remember that if there are several toxic species in one habitat, it’s to their evolutionary advantage to converge in appearance, for that facilitates the predator’s learning: it has to learn only one pattern to avoid instead of several, lessening the possibility of “mistakes” in which an unfamiliar pattern displayed by a toxic species is attacked and its possessor killed.

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5 Comments

  1. Christopher
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Lovely shots. At first glance I thought the larvae was some sort of centipede or millipede. Quite a few similarities to some of the beetles we have ’round my way. One of the nice things about them being avoided by predators is they let you get right up close to take pics.

    and I have to add that reading this post I suddenly realized why Trump is orange: its a signal to us that he is noxious and distasteful! Cheers!

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Totally cool! Females of the trilobite beetle stay in the larval form, as shown here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platerodrilus .

  3. Posted January 9, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    If you’re interested in seeing a Lycid beetle similar to the ones that the moth is imitating, please see: https://alittlewild.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/781/. The resemblance is impressive!

  4. Posted January 9, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Müllerian mimicry is also found in the little armoured catfishes (Corydoras) that are familiar to aquarists. Multiple species of catfish from different “lineages” (with differing body sizes and snout shapes so they don’t compete for resources) have converged on several strikingly similar colour patterns.

    Ref: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v469/n7328/abs/nature09660.html

    These little catfishes have sharp (and slightly toxic) spines which predators would do well to avoid.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted January 9, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I know about those catfishes! Not something to pick up, or even easily deal with if caught in a net.


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