The Relationship between Morphological and Behavioral Mimicry in Hover Flies (Diptera: Syrphidae)

Palatable (Batesian) mimics of unprofitable models could use behavioral mimicry to compensate for the ease with which they can be visually discriminated or to augment an already close morphological resemblance. We evaluated these contrasting predictions by assaying the behavior of 57 field-caught species of mimetic hover flies (Diptera: Syrphidae) and quantifying their morphological similarity to a range of potential hymenopteran models. A purpose-built phylogeny for the hover flies was used to control for potential lack of independence due to shared evolutionary history. Those hover fly species that engage in behavioral mimicry (mock stinging, leg waving, wing wagging) were all large wasp mimics within the genera Spilomyia and Temnostoma. While the behavioral mimics assayed were good morphological mimics, not all good mimics were behavioral mimics. Therefore, while the behaviors may have evolved to augment good morphological mimicry, they do not advantage all good mimics.