Selective advantage conferred by resemblance of aposematic mimics to venomous model

<div><p>Abstract Mimicry is an excellent example of how natural selection can act on color, morphology, and behavior of species. Herein we assess predation rates on coral snake mimics in Central Brazil, a region with many mimics but only a single model, to answer the following questions: (i) Do predators avoid attacking coral snake mimics? (ii) Does the degree to which mimics resemble their venomous model affect the frequency of predator attacks? (iii) Do predators attack different body regions in mimics with different color patterns? Our experiment was conducted in the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, in the municipality of Alto Paraíso de Goiás, state of Goiás, Brazil. To evaluate predation rates on the different mimic patterns, we made 2,400 clay snake replicas using pre-colored nontoxic plasticine and distributed them in open savanna landscapes within the park. A total of 164 (6.83%) replicas were attacked by predators of snakes. Among these attacks, 121 were attacks by birds, and 43 were attacks by carnivorous mammals. Logistic regression and Fisher’s exact test indicated that replicas with red, white, and black coloration are less likely to be attacked than were grey replicas, and coral snake replicas were attacked more often at the “head” end. Also, the greater the similarity to the pattern of venomous coral snakes, the rarer the attack on the replica. Our study underscores the strong selective force that protects coral snake mimics from predators. Our findings reinforce resemblance to the model as an extremely effective strategy in a complex natural system with only one model and numerous mimics.</p></div>