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Abstract

Current research of imperfect mimicry brings ambiguous results. Experiments simulating more natural conditions rather than laboratory experiments show lower willingness of avian predators to attack less perfect mimics. We decided to simulate a natural situation by testing responses of wild-caught adult avian predators (Great tit – Parus major) to variously perfect mimics of the red firebug (Pyrrhocoris apterus), which were in previous studies shown to elicit avoidance in Great tits. Presented mimics were perfect in all traits (firebug with its own colour pattern), imperfect in colour pattern (firebug with modified colour pattern), perfect in colour pattern, but imperfect in other visual traits (cockroach with firebug colour pattern), and imperfect in colour pattern as well as in other visual traits (cockroach with modified colour patterns). Modification of the pattern focused on the rounded spots on firebug's hemielytra, which is a conspicuous trait within the pattern. The pattern modification had no influence on the number of birds attacking the prey; nevertheless, birds spent more time observing the cockroaches that displayed the perfect firebug colour pattern than in the case of any other prey. Moreover, firebugs that displayed the perfect firebug colour pattern were observed for the shortest time (equal to that of the model – unmodified firebug). Cockroaches were attacked more often than firebugs, which suggest that birds were able to use additional visual cues (shape of legs and antennae) in prey recognition. Given these result, we conclude that differences in morphological traits characteristic for used prey taxa (true bugs, cockroaches) seem to be more important in the prey's protection than its colour pattern.