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Predator Mimicry

In action movies we most often come across a scene where a thief hoodwinks a police cop. The thief in the garb of a policeman will walk straight to a cop on duty, exchange pleasantries with him and move across to a waiting cab and speed away. It is mimicry and escape.

In the insect world varieties of mimicry exist, but what the Metalmark moth does to protect itself is something similar to a movie scene.

Metalmark moths (Brenthia hexaselena) are the world’s smallest moths. They are noticed frequently in rain forests. The moths are day fliers, with a wingspan of just 8mm.

The body of the moth is dark gray. Wings bear metallic colored minute scales that give the moth its name. The wings have eyespots.

The moth lives in places where jumping spiders stroll around in search of prey. The jumping spiders prey upon small insects especially the metalmark moths.

The metalmark moth therefore has to be quite wary about its predator. It has developed a strange behavior that makes the moth escape from the spider. When confronted with a jumping spider, the metalmark rests on the ground with its hind wings fluffed up. The forewings are positioned above the body at an angle. The moth now looks like a jumping spider.

The predator spider responds to the metalmark moth’s jerky pivoting behavior, in a similar fashion. The spider’s reply is a territorial display obviously indicating that the spider has taken note of another spider in its territory. In this brief moment of time, the metalmark moth skulks away.

The moth has effectively mimicked its own predator and the jumping spider has evidently mistaken the metalmark moth for other spider.

This is described as Predator Mimicry and the Metalmark moths are found to escape 90 out of 100 times by this trickery. Experimental evidence proves that the metalmark moth has enhanced its survival value with this kind of rare mimicry.

Ironically, some jumping spiders mimic the predatory ants and escape from being eaten away!!