Natural selection in mimicry.
Biological mimicry has served as a salient example of natural selection for over a century, providing us with a dazzling array of very different examples across many unrelated taxa. We provide a conceptual framework that brings together apparently disparate examples of mimicry in a single model for the purpose of comparing how natural selection affects models, mimics and signal receivers across different interactions. We first analyse how model-mimic resemblance likely affects the fitness of models, mimics and receivers across diverse examples. These include classic Batesian and Mullerian butterfly systems, nectarless orchids that mimic Hymenoptera or nectar-producing plants, caterpillars that mimic inert objects unlikely to be perceived as food, plants that mimic abiotic objects like carrion or dung and aggressive mimicry where predators mimic food items of their own prey. From this, we construct a conceptual framework of the selective forces that form the basis of all mimetic interactions. These interactions between models, mimics and receivers may follow four possible evolutionary pathways in terms of the direction of selection resulting from model-mimic resemblance. Two of these pathways correspond to the selective pressures associated with what is widely regarded as Batesian and Mullerian mimicry. The other two pathways suggest mimetic interactions underpinned by distinct selective pressures that have largely remained unrecognized. Each pathway is characterized by theoretical differences in how model-mimic resemblance influences the direction of selection acting on mimics, models and signal receivers, and the potential for consequent (co)evolutionary relationships between these three protagonists. The final part of this review describes how selective forces generated through model-mimic resemblance can be opposed by the basic ecology of interacting organisms and how those forces may affect the symmetry, strength and likelihood of (co)evolution between the three protagonists within the confines of the four broad evolutionary possibilities. We provide a clear and pragmatic visualization of selection pressures that portrays how different mimicry types may evolve. This conceptual framework provides clarity on how different selective forces acting on mimics, models and receivers are likely to interact and ultimately shape the evolutionary pathways taken by mimetic interactions, as well as the constraints inherent within these interactions.