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Imperfect mimicry in spiders and insects mainly shaped by adaptive processes rather than constraints, finds study


Two natural scientists at Macquarie University, working with an evolutionary specialist at the University of New South Wales, all in Australia, have found that imperfect mimicry in spiders and insects is likely mainly shaped by adaptive processes rather than constraints, or chance.

In their study, published in the journal Biology Letters, Donald McLean, Gerasimos Cassis and Marie Herberstein collected multiple specimens of ant-mimicking spiders and insects and compared them to learn more about any constraints that may have led to their imperfect mimicry.

Prior research has shown that many insect species have evolved to resemble ants. This, scientists suggest, is because ants are less likely to be eaten by predators due to their foul taste and the tendency of ants to retaliate as a group. Research has also shown that some spiders have evolved in similar ways for similar reasons.

But researchers have assumed until now that insects would do a better job of it than spiders because they are evolutionarily closer to the ant model. In this new effort, the research team has found that not to be the case.

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