Biology | Year 1, YVR Session 2
What is Emsleyan Mimicry?
Mimicry is when an organism copies the appearance or behaviour of another animal, plant or even inanimate object. Generally, organisms use mimicry to help protect themselves from predators. Specifically, emsleyan mimicry is when a deadlier species mimics a less deadly one.
How does an organism benefit from Emselyan Mimicry?
It is easy to understand why a harmless organism would wish to mimic a deadly one. This way, they would be able to avoid predation. However, it is less clear why a deadly one would pretend to be less harmful or even harmless. One example of this phenomenon is the deadly coral snake mimicking the colour patterns of the less harmful milk snake.
Although scientists are still unsure, it has been theorized that there is an evolutionary advantage. If a predator were to attack a coral snake, the predator would likely die but may injure or kill the coral snake in the process. When this happens, the predator does not learn that the coral snake is dangerous. The predator will then continue preying on the coral snake. If the coral snake pretends to be the less deadly but still possibly harmful milk snake, it may reduce the number of attacks.