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Data from: Learning of salient prey traits explains Batesian mimicry evolution

Cite this dataset

Kazemi, Baharan et al. (2018). Data from: Learning of salient prey traits explains Batesian mimicry evolution [Dataset]. Dryad.


Batesian mimicry evolution entails an initial major mutation that produces a rough resemblance to the model, followed by smaller improving changes. To examine the learning psychology of this process, we applied established ideas about mimicry in Papilio polyxenes asterius of the model Battus philenor. We performed experiments with wild birds as predators and butterfly wings as semi-artificial prey. Wings of hybrids of P. p. asterius and P. machaon were used to approximate the first mutant, with melanism as the hypothesized first mimetic trait. Based on previous results about learning psychology and imperfect mimicry, we predicted that: melanism should have high salience (i.e., being noticeable and prominent), meaning that predators readily discriminate a melanistic mutant from appearances similar to P. machaon; the difference between the first mutant and the model should have intermediate salience, to allow further improvement of mimicry; and the final difference in appearance between P. p. asterius and B. philenor should have very low salience, causing improvement to level off. Our results supported both the traditional hypothesis and all our predictions about relative salience. We conclude that there is good agreement between long-held ideas about how Batesian mimicry evolves and recent insights from learning psychology about the role of salience in mimicry evolution.

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