It seems like Müllerian mimicry would be an example of mutualism because both species would end up being eaten less by predators that only have to learn one pattern of warning symbols. But to what extent is Batesian mimicry a form a parasitism? It seems like predators who ended up consuming the harmless species would lose some of their conditioning to not eat prey that resembled it, thus harming the species that is actually protected.

How often might this happen in ecosystems where Batesian mimicry is present? Does the presence of a similar unprotected species cause the protected species to be a more common target for predators?

Difference between Batesian and Mullerian mimicry on wikipedia


In my own opinion, I would not classify this as parasitism, as more unpalatable species are eaten with Batesian mimicry (and eating causes death). Parasitic organisms often do not kill the host, whereas in this case, it does. However, you are correct in stating that a unpalatable species with aposematic coloring is detrimented by the presence of a palatable Batesian mimic.

Predators often recognize the aposematic coloring of an unpalatable or dangerous species. They "train" themselves not to eat that particular prey, as it is detrimental. The presence of a Batesian mimic which is palatable or not harmful, in simple terms, "untrains" predators of the harmful nature of that particular aposematic coloring. Predators are "confused", and are thus more likely to eat preys with that aposematic coloring, and results in more death of the species being mimicked, while providing protection to the species that is mimicking.

As far as I'm concerned, within an ecosystem, this phenomenon happens with any Batesian mimicry to some degree. Factors that may influence this degree is the recognizability of the aposematic coloring, as well as the ability of a predator to recognize this coloring.

I hope this clears things up.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.