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There are several hypotheses around as possible answers to this question. In general they come down to the benefit of mimicking outweighing the cost of being more conspicuous. Also, many mimics (like the bull snake example) are not especially conspicuous compared to non-mimetic relatives, meaning that the cost of mimicking another organism is even lower. There are many different forms of mimicry, but the main categories discussed here will be Batesian mimicry, death feigning, a form of aggressive mimicry called caudal luring , and sexual mimicry. The most common technique for the study of mimetic systems is the comparative method, since most systems involve two or more separate species and the same basic system is found in many groups of animals. However, within species observation and experimental studies are also performed when applicable. Snakes make a great model group for learning about this subject because all of these broad categories can be found within the suborder serpentes. There are a few especially interesting cases of snake mimicry as well.

Batesian mimicry

a picture of an eastern coral snake and a king snake.
Eastern Coral Snake, Micrurus fulvius , compared to King snake, Lampropeltis sp . Photos by Snakecollector on Flickr and *~DAWN~* on flickr respectively.
*See end of reference section for intellectual property

The most well known and extensively studied form of mimicry is a type of defensive mimicry known as Batesian mimicry . It was first described by, and later named for, Henry Bates who proposed mimicry as the reason for unrelated species of butterflies often having very similar patterns. Batesian mimicry is where a member of a palatable species has the same color patterns and/or body size and shape as a non-palatable species. That is to say that a species that predators would have no problem eating mimics a species that is dangerous or distasteful to eat in either looks or behavior, often both. The benefits to the mimic here are relatively obvious. It gains a greatly decreased chance of being preyed upon since predators will associate it with the dangerous or distasteful nature of the mimicked species. The cost-benefit hypothesis therefore asserts that this benefit outweighs whatever cost the mimicry has on the individual.

a cobra
Bull Snake, Pituophis catenifer sayi. Note that the dorsal markings are similar to those of many rattlesnakes. Photo by Lady Shmee on flickr.

The most well known suggested example of this type of mimicry in snakes is the coral snake and its mimics. However, this system is far more complex than originally thought and is discussed at length in [link] . Another common, and far less complex, system of Batesian mimicry in snakes are the cobras and their mimics. Several species of non-venomous snakes copy the shape of a cobra's hood and strike posture. A further and really excellent example is that of the bull snake, Pituophis catenifer sayi , mimicking rattlesnakes in both looks and behavior (Herrera, Smith,&Chiszar 1981). Not only are the two species patterned very similarly, but the rattlesnake covers all of the bull snake’s native range , and the bull snake also vigorously shakes its tail when threatened, even though it lacks the rattlesnake’s rattle. These traits all added together strongly suggest that bull snakes are true Batesian mimics of rattlesnakes. However, there is some concern expressed by a few scientists that rattlesnakes are too venomous to allow predators to learn from “mistakes” (see [link] ). It has been strongly suggested though, that a rattlesnake does have control over how much venom it injects with any given strike (see figure 3) and often delivers a “sub-lethal” amount when defending itself (Hayes, LavÆn-Murcio,&Kardong 1995). Recently, it has also been shown using model snakes with distinctively viper-like markings that Batesian mimicry definitely does not need bright warning colors to be effective (see [link] ) (Wüster et al. 2004).

Questions & Answers

How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
How can I make nanorobot?
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
how can I make nanorobot?
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
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Source:  OpenStax, Mockingbird tales: readings in animal behavior. OpenStax CNX. Jan 12, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11211/1.5
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