Best mimicry ever
December 4, 2018 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Best mimicry ever "It’s all done with color and shading: nature’s smoke and mirrors."
posted by dhruva (19 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Nature is amazing. Looking at it with the wings moving I still can only barely get my head around the illusion. I'm so thankful that that moth isn't the size of a car and hungry for humans.
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 9:09 AM on December 4 [1 favorite]

I clicked on the link expecting to be disappointed and then I saw the thing and was like "oh cool it evolved curled up wings" and then I realized they aren't actually curled and I damn near flipped my desk over.
posted by saladin at 9:30 AM on December 4 [22 favorites]

I saw the thing and was like "oh cool it evolved curled up wings" and then I realized they aren't actually curled

I've watched it a number of times and I still don't actually accept this.
posted by The Bellman at 9:35 AM on December 4 [9 favorites]

It's like it was designed by Al Jaffee
posted by chavenet at 9:36 AM on December 4 [7 favorites]

Very cool - thank you for sharing!
posted by agregoli at 9:57 AM on December 4


Even I, as an inveterate moth hater, thought this was pretty cool! Count me as another who thought this was the moth's curled up wing at first. Amazing.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:07 AM on December 4 [1 favorite]

It would be interesting to know whether the moth is imitating the curled up and dried leaf of a particular species of plant in its habitat, or something more like a generic dried leaf.

I want to say generic, but it seems easier to imagine the process of selection with a particular species as a model.
posted by jamjam at 10:32 AM on December 4

I'm so thankful that that moth isn't the size of a car and hungry for humans.

I'm pretty sure that a dead leaf the size of a car is a giveaway.
posted by Splunge at 10:50 AM on December 4 [9 favorites]

That funky beat is bangin'.
posted by Schadenfreude at 11:10 AM on December 4 [1 favorite]

That blew my mind. Nature is fantastic.
posted by freecellwizard at 12:29 PM on December 4

That’s my all-time favourite!
Here are some others:
A treehopper mimicking an ant
A spider mimicking an ant
A leaf-mimicking moth
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 1:41 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]

Bloxworth Snout: Here are some others:

I hereby declare this thread the official mimicry thread!

Here's a spider mimicking a leaf.

And one of my favourites: a caterpillar mimicking a snake.
posted by dhruva at 1:55 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]

Even if you look like unmitigated crap, Mother Nature reserves a place for you: beetles, caterpillar, frog, moth, moth (with feeding flies!), praying mantis, spider.
posted by cenoxo at 3:47 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]

While admiring the legions of leaf mimics, let us not forget the Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko and the fantastic South America Leaf Fish.
posted by cenoxo at 4:06 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]

I wonder if there are mimics out there that we don't appreciate as mimics because their camouflage is optimized to work on the visual systems of frogs or owls or whatever and doesn't fool human vision.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:01 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]

There are chemical mimics; I know of a spider that lives in ant nests that looks nothing like an ant but presumably smells like an ant, and so the ants leave it alone.
posted by dhruva at 7:39 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]

This is utterly fantastic, and new to me. So there’s actually a really lively field of research right now on the genetic/molecular mechanisms that lay down pigmentation patterns on butterfly and moth wings. Ultimately, these patterns must arise from spatial variation in gene expression, often via ‘cis-regulatory elements’ - segments of DNA that are near to & regulate the transcription of protein coding genes. Wings provide a really good system for studying this kind of variation, as the wing is usually formed in development before the pattern is laid down. This means you can often perturb the coloration in a way that doesn’t totally destroy the wing (and render the results uninterpretable). As such, this kind of color pattern may help us to understand some very deep and important questions about how gene expression works and, especially, how it evolves. These are fundamentally important problems for our understanding of genetics & will have all sorts of important ramifications in our understanding of medicine, agriculture, etc.

What I find so remarkable is the extreme complexity in the molecular mechanism that would seem to be required to lay down such a complex non-random pattern. How is that information (that ‘picture’!!) encoded in the genome? Are there cis-regulatory elements that give each one of these domains of color (such as every strip of light and dark on every ‘vein’)? Or is it a smaller number of elements whose patterns are able to repeat across the wing somehow? If the latter, what kind of rules do those repeats follow? Maybe it’s just a very clever scheme where you can produce it all by summing a fairly small number of concentration gradients of pigmentation factors? Can any kind of repition evolve readily, or maybe are certain kinds of patterns somehow easier to produce than others? These are questions that are unanswered, but may be answerable in the foreseeable future. What a profound accomplishment it would be if we actually could figure it out!
posted by Buckt at 9:39 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]

The master of disguise may be the Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) [SLYT], which was not discovered until 1998. Imagine the other beasties waiting in the ocean depths.
posted by cenoxo at 7:06 AM on December 5

A different photo of the moth from twitter today
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 3:13 PM on December 8

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