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Mullerian Mimicry

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Give Mullerian Mimicry Definition?

Müllerian mimicry is one of the forms of a biological resemblance, where either two or more unrelated dangerous or noxious organisms contain warning systems, which are identical, such as the bright colour patterns. In 1878, as per the widely accepted theory advanced by the German naturalist Fritz Müller, this particular resemblance, although differing from the better-known Batesian mimicry (where one organism is not noxious), should be considered mimicry nonetheless, due to the predator, learned to avoid an organism with a given warning system will avoid all the same organisms, hence making the resemblance a protective mechanism.

Let's look at the variations between Batesian and Mullerian mimicry

Differentiation of Batesian Mimicry and Mullerian Mimicry

Batesian Mimicry

Mullerian Mimicry

This theory was proposed by Bates.

This theory was proposed by Muller.

This is a mimicry type, where a harmless and palatable organism simulates an unpalatable and harmful organism for protection.

This is a form of mimicry, where either two or more species simulate each other's warning signals.

In this. the mimic is benefited.

All the species involved here benefit from this mimicry.

This model should be more abundant in the wild.

All the species involved here can be equally present in the wild.

Example: Limenitis archippus simulates the harmful Danaus plenteous.

Example: This mimicry can be observed between a wasp and a Ctenuchid moth.



The Müllerian mimicry relies either on warning signals or aposematism. The dangerous organisms with these particular honest signals can be avoided by predators that learn after a bad experience quickly not to pursue the similar unprofitable prey again. Learning is not required for animals that instinctively avoid certain prey; however, learning from specific experiences is very common.


The underlying concept with the predators is, the warning signal makes the harmful organism much easier to remember than if this remained as well camouflaged as possible. Camouflage and aposematism are, in this way, the opposing concepts, but this does not say that they are mutually exclusive.


Several animals hide until they are threatened, then use shocking eyespots and bright colours on their noisy or underside vocalisations as alarm signals. In this manner, these enjoy the best of both strategies. Also, these strategies can be employed differently throughout the development. For suppose, the large white mullerian mimicry butterflies are aposematic as larvae, but they are Müllerian mimics once they emerge from the development as adult mullerian mimicry butterflies.

Selective Advantage

Several different prey of similar predators could each use their own warning signals, but this would be counterproductive for all parties involved. If they could all agree on a common warning signal, the predator would suffer some negative consequences, and the prey would lose fewer people who could educate it. None of that conference needs to happen, as a prey species that simply so takes place to look a little like an unprofitable species will be safer compared to its conspecifics by enabling the natural selection to drive prey species towards a single warning language.

Depending on whether the mimic is profitable to its predators or only a free-rider, this could lead to the evolution of Müllerian and Batesian mimicry. Multiple species may join the protective cooperative by expanding the mimicry ring. Thus, Müller offered a brief explanation for the Bates' paradox; in his opinion, mimicry was not a case of one species exploiting another, but rather a mutualistic relationship, despite his mathematical model indicating a pronounced asymmetry.


A few insights into the evolution of mimetic colour mimicry in the Lepidoptera in specific can be seen through the Optix gene study. This study is responsible for the signature red wing patterns of the Heliconius butterflies that help it signal to predators that it is toxic. The Heliconius butterfly will increase its chances of survival by sharing this specific colouration with other poisonous red-winged butterflies, which the predator may have previously pursued. By mapping the genome of several Heliconius butterflies' related species, it shows (s) that the cis-regulatory evolution of a single transcription factor may repeatedly drive the convergent evolution of the complex colour patterns in the distantly related species.

Mimicry Complexes

Several familiar bumblebees are the Müllerian mimics, with similar warning colouration and effective stings. Let us look at some of the examples:

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Often, Müllerian mimicry takes place in the clusters of multiple species known as rings. Müllerian mimicry is not only limited to butterflies, where the rings are common; mimicry rings take place among Hymenoptera, like bumblebees including other insects, and among the vertebrates, including coral snakes and fish.

The Bumblebees Bombus are all aposematically coloured in variations of white, black, red, and yellow, sometimes in stripes, and all of their females have stings, making them unprofitable to predators.

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FAQs on Mullerian Mimicry

1. Give the Two-Step Evolution of Mullerian Mimicry?

Answer: A proposed mechanism for the Müllerian mimicry is this "two-step hypothesis". It states that, initially, a large mutational leap establishes a near resemblance of the mimic to the model, both species already being aposematic. In the second step, small changes establish a closer resemblance. However, this is only likely to work when a trait can be governed by a single gene, and several colouration patterns are controlled by the multiple genes certainly.

2. Explain Mullerian Mimicry in Detail?

Answer: Mullerian mimicry is given as a phenomenon, where two varied toxic species mimic the features of each other. They can possess different predators; however, when faced with any of the species, the predator will learn to avoid both species. This gives them an advantage of forestalling the potential predator from predating on them.

3. Explain the Non-Visual Mimicry Evolution?

Answer: Müllerian mimicry did not involve visual mimicry; it can employ any of the senses. For example, several Mullerian mimicry examples in snakes share similar auditory warning signals by forming an auditory Müllerian mimicry ring. Above one signal can be shared: snakes may make use of both auditory signals and the warning colouration.

4. What are Batesian Mimicry and Mullerian Mimicry?

Answer: Batesian mimicry is a mimicry type where a palatable and harmless organism simulates a harmful and unpalatable organism for protection. A mullerian mimicry is a mimicry form, where either two or more species simulates each other by warning signal.

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