Does Mimicry Extend to Flight Behaviors in a Mimetic Damselfly?

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Haylie Kinman
David Outomuro
Nathan Morehouse


By Haylie Kinman, Biological Sciences; David Outomuro, University of Cincinnati

Advisor: Nathan Morehouse

Presentation ID: 188

Abstract: The mimicking of a toxic species can reduce predation risk and usually involves mimetic colorations. Behavioral mimicry can also evolve to contribute to educate predators. We studied flight mimicry in a neotropical mimicry ring consisting of Polythoridae damselflies mimicking the color and morphology of toxic Ithomiini glasswing butterflies, which serve as mimetic models. Previous studies suggested possible flight mimicry in this system, and the aim of this work was to further explore this question by using three-dimensional tracking of free-flying individuals in semi-natural conditions. Animals were filmed in a field insectary, including the model glasswing butterflies, two species of mimic damselflies, two closely related species of non-mimic damselflies, and closely related glasswing butterflies without aposematic colorations. All butterflies tended to exhibit more sinuous and less rapid flights, while all damselflies tended to show straighter and faster flights. Butterfly flights were sinuous when observed from above but not from the side. Male damselflies had a higher average flight velocity than their female counterparts. The multivariate analysis of the flight parameters suggested that mimic damselflies tend to be closer to model butterflies than non-mimic damselflies, with two exceptions: males of one of the mimic species and females of one of the non-mimic species. This analysis also showed that the species with poor color mimicry showed better flight mimicry than the species with good color mimicry. In comparison with previous works, our current results suggest that flight mimicry, if present, might be compensating for poorer resemblance of the color aposematic signal.

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The Natural World