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Mimicry in the ant attended leafhopper species Eurymela rubrolimbata
thesisposted on 2022-03-29, 02:58 authored by Alexander Burton
Mimicry is a diverse and well-studied topic. However, little literature exists regarding why animals adopt mimicry over other defence strategies. Juvenile Eurymela rubrolimbata leafhoppers both mimic Dolichoderus clarki ants, and provide them with honeydew in return for protection. Interestingly, other ant attended species have not been described to resemble their ant partners. Considering this, I first determined whether E. rubrolimbata mimics D. clarki or just displays similar aposematic colouration. To do so I took a multi-trait approach applying recently developed techniques and incorporating multiple life stages and backgrounds. This approach revealed that E. rubrolimbata display mimetic colour and colour distribution at size appropriate instar stages, possess a more ant-like shape due to background interactions and move rapidly like D. clarki. To understand why mimicry may be displayed, I assessed E. rubrolimbata’s relationship with D. clarki and with key resources. Like other species, the mimic and model display a strong relationship. However, E. rubrolimbata regularly travels between spatially separated resources, setting it apart from other ant attended species which are primarily stationary. Hence, I propose movement requirements contributed to E. rubrolimbata evolving mimicry. Indeed, the need for movement may be a determining factor in the evolution of mimicry among other species.