Mimicry: The Masters Of Deception And Disguise Part 2

January 25, 2023

Aggressive mimicry is used when a mimic uses its disguise for predation or hostile motives. Predators resort to aggressive mimicry and share similar signals using a harmless model. It allows them to avoid being identified by their prey or host. They opt to gain an advantage by resemblances to a third party.

In other examples, the aggressor may even mimic the prey of its intended prey. The female anglerfish has an antenna-like filament on her head, housing 'luminous' bacteria in a bulb-like structure perched on top of the filament. The anglerfish rotates its filament or slender rod if you like. She does this to lure in her prey.

Social mimicry dictates safety in numbers and protection through numbers. Imagine fish forming shoals or schools. It’s an exhibition to protect vulnerable species from predation. It’s also called ‘dilution of risk’. Fish schooling allegedly enhances species’ survival with similar color patterns and aggregate and forms mixed schools. The advantage of being in a school may cause solitary fish species to seek refuge from predators by blending into such aggregations. 

Cleaner mimicry protects specific fish species from being on their predator’s menus. Cleaner fishes are privileged to have a relatively sheltered life since they have a valuable function in the reef community. Cleaner wrasses play a pivotal role in keeping reef fish healthy. They act as managers of aquatic launderettes and ‘fish-wash’, where other fish lines up for ‘ disinfection’ service. They remove and eat parasites and, occasionally, damaged skin residues from other marine fish. Their seductive and hypnotizing 'dance' attracts clients. 

Their popularity gave rise to the phenomenon of cleaner mimicry. We are talking species like dotty-backs, the notorious false cleaner blenny, and the blue-striped fang blenny. The notorious false cleaner blenny fools visitors into cleaning stations. It takes on the shape, size, basic coloration, swimming pattern, and posture of the genuine cleaner wrasse. Hence, they bear a striking resemblance to the authentic cleaner wrasse. Having adopted its appearance and behavior, it signals the attention of clients to the cleaner’s station. By its mimicking, the client feels inclined to enjoy the services of the fraudulent blenny. As a reward for its deceptive techniques, the blenny will serve the client to satiate its appetite.