Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire: a Novel Trade-Off for Batesian Mimics


Ximena J. Nelson, Department of Psychology, Animal Behaviour Laboratory, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia. E-mail: ximena@galliform.bhs.mq.edu.au


A mimicry system was investigated in which the models were ants (Formicidae) and both the mimics and the predators were jumping spiders (Salticidae). By using motionless lures in simultaneous-presentation prey-choice tests, how the predators respond specifically to the static appearance of ants and ant mimics was determined. These findings suggest a rarely considered adaptive trade-off for Batesian mimics of ants. Mimicry may be advantageous when it deceives ant-averse potential predators, but disadvantageous in encounters with ant-eating specialists. Nine myrmecophagic (ant-eating) species (from Africa, Asia, Australia and North America) and one araneophagic (spider-eating) species (Portia fimbriata from Queensland) were tested with ants (five species), with myrmecomorphic (ant-like) salticids (six species of Myrmarachne) and with non-ant-like prey (dipterans and ordinary salticids). The araneophagic salticid chose an ordinary salticid and chose flies significantly more often than ants. Portia fimbriata also chose the ordinary salticid and chose flies significantly more often than myrmecomorphic salticids. However, there was no significant difference in how P. fimbriata responded to ants and to myrmecomorphic salticids. The myrmecophagic salticids chose ants and chose myrmecomorphic salticids significantly more often than ordinary salticids and significantly more often than flies, but myrmecophagic salticids did not respond significantly differently to myrmecomorphic salticids and ants.