Animal Adaptation: Mimicry

Adaptation occurs when a change in the body or behavior of a species over many generations makes it better able to survive in its environment. There are different types of adaptation, but all are important survival mechanisms since organisms that adapt successfully are more likely to elude predators and survive to reproduce. In turn, their offspring will then pass that adaptation on to their young. Because of this, adaptation is important to many animal species.

Let’s take a look at the type of adaptation known as mimicry.

With mimicry, an organism adapts to take on an appearance that makes it look like another organism or an object. Mimicry comes in handy when one organism is trying to escape the attention of another because the more an organism looks like something else, the less the organism looks like prey to the predators who seek it.

Take butterflies as an example. The objective of the butterflies in our scenario is to survive long enough to lay eggs. We have three types of  butterflies. One type is bright blue with emerald green spots, another is multi-colored, and the third is a solid color. The only predator of these butterflies is a species of lizard that lives in the region for twelve months of the year. These lizards aren’t picky; they’ll eat any butterfly they can find.

leaf-butterflyThe first day, the lizards eat all the bright blue butterflies. Why? Because the blue is so bright that its impossible to overlook the butterflies. The second day, the lizards eat all of the multi-colored butterflies. Why? Because it’s hard to blend with a yellow flower when you are all the colors of the rainbow. The third day, the lizards eat all the solid-colored butterflies that are not brown. Why? Because it’s fall and the leaves are brown. The non-brown butterflies are impossible to overlook. By the fourth day, the lizards are very hungry. They are looking for something delicious and are peering closely at every brown leaf. Which butterfly survives? The one butterfly who is not just brown, but brown and looks like a brown leaf.

Why did this butterfly survive? Because this species of butterfly has adapted to the point where it has perfected the camouflage for its environment!

Scholastic Science Dictionary

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