Mimicry in Animals: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition of Mimicry
  • 0:39 How It Works
  • 1:20 Types and Examples of Mimicry
  • 2:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Meredith Mikell
Living things have evolved some very unique and fascinating ways to trick predators and competitors. Mimicry is one such tactic. Learn about mimicry and explore some of the more wild and interesting examples of it.

Definition of Mimicry

We are all familiar with the element of disguise: dress like others in your surroundings, blend in, and go unnoticed. We also enjoy dressing in costume for parties and Halloween: assuming a new appearance and identity can be empowering! Animals do this too, though not by conscious choice. Mimicry occurs when one animal displays physical or behavioral traits that copy those of a different species or their surroundings, and incur a survival advantage on account of it. Animals don't necessarily mimic other animals; often, they mimic plants or rocks.

How It Works

Let's say there is a non-poisonous species of snake (A) that has the same coloring and patterns of a poisonous species (B). Snake A doesn't have to actually be poisonous in order to reap the benefits of notoriety! Predators will avoid snake A, mistaking it for snake B. This is not something that the snakes choose to do - natural selection has favored the non-poisonous snakes that bear a stronger resemblance to the poisonous ones, who survive to reproduce and pass on their 'copycat' genes. The more strongly they resemble the truly deadly snake, the more they will succeed, and the resemblance just gets stronger over subsequent generations.

Types and Examples of Mimicry

There are several ways in which mimicry can occur:

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