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Uploaded:2015-11-09
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Have you ever pretended to be something else? Some animals do too! Learn how animals use mimicry to keep safe, or to sneak a snack!
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SOURCES:

http://phys.org/news/2015-04-fake-eyes-butterfly-wings-mimic.html#jCp

http://www.britannica.com/science/mimicry

https://beespotter.org/topics/mimics/
[intro plays]

Jessi: Have you ever pretended to be something else? An astronaut, a superhero or even your favorite animal? Well some animals pretend to be other things, too, but they don't need to wear special clothes to do it, they're already dressed for the part.

When an animal looks a lot like another animal, even though they're not the same kind of creature at all, it's called mimicry, and some animals use mimicry in order too keep safe, while others use it to sneak a snack.

Have a look at this butterfly. It's small, delicate, and doesn't move very fast. For a bird it would be the perfect meal. The butterfly can't fight off a bird, but maybe it can pretend to be something else. Look at the markings on its wings. Do you see what looks like a pair of big eyes. To some bird, they don't just look like any old eyes, they look a lot like owl eyes, and you know what owl eat? Often times they eat other birds, so when a bird gets close to this butterfly, it gets a real fright. By mimicking another animal, the butterfly avoids ending up on the menu, and it earns the name owl butterfly.

Now some animals mimic creatures that aren't bigger or badder, they're just dangerous to eat. I think we can all agree that a bee would be a bad thing to eat, right? Well, other animals don't like eating bees, either. It takes just one sting for them to know to stay away from little insects with black and yellow stripes. Those colors signal danger. But other insects that aren't bees and don't even have stingers can have those same colors, and animals will leave them alone. Some flies like this drone fly, or beetles like this painted locust borer, or even some moths have black and yellow stripes even though they can't sting, but other animals don't know that, so they keep their distance just in case.

Still, for some animals, a bee sting might not be too much of a threat, but how about a snake bite? The coral snake and the false coral snake are both dangerous, their bites can carry a potentially deadly dose of venom, and they both have patterns of red, black, and yellow or white rings on their scales. Which is great for snakes that aren't venomous but also happen to have these same colors, like the scarlet king snake. It's totally harmless, but other animals still give it plenty of room. Because, well... take a look at them together. Would you want to try to tell these snakes apart?

Finally, some animals don't want to be left alone, they want other animals to come close. So they use mimicry to attract  animals, especially ones they want to take a bite out of. This fish is called a cleaner fish, they pick parasites and crusty stuff off of other fish. When a fish needs a good cleaning, it might keep and eye out for a little fish with black and white stripes and a funny way of swimming. When it spots one, it'll swim close and get a good grooming. But there's another fish with black and white stripes who lives in the same reef. This fish, called a sabretooth blenny, like to hang out where the cleaner fish work, but when another fish swims up for a nice relaxing clean, it gets a nasty surprise. The blenny takes a bite out of the fish's fin. So the blenny uses mimicry to trick the fish into thinking it's helpful, when really it just wants something to eat.

So now you know, mimicry is all over the animal kingdom. Sometimes, harmless animals pretend to be harmful in order to stay safe, and sometimes predators pretend to be helpful in order to get closer to their prey. Thanks for learning about mimicry with us. If you have a question about something you'd like to learn more about, get help from a grown up and leave a comment below or email us at kids@thescishow.com, and we'll see you next time.

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