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Lingual luring

While garter snakes, Thamnophis spp , are much better known in terms of mimicry for often being sexual mimics, some have been found to perform an unusual form of aggressive mimicry known as lingual luring (Welsh&Lind 2000b). Lingual luring is very similar to caudal luring except an individual flicks its tongue against the water instead of waving its tail in the air or along the ground. Most other characteristics of the two are generally the same, and they are both used to mimic the snake’s prey’s prey. However, while caudal luring has been observed in some lizards, lingual luring has not to date. Lingual luring is distinguishable from normal tongue flicking by the position of the tongue and duration of flicking. Also the authors show that like caudal luring, lingual luring is almost exclusively done by juvenile snakes, not adults. Lingual luring is best known in a slightly different form used by alligator snapping turtles, Macrochelys temminckii , where the shape of the tongue mimics prey much like in caudal luring by snakes and lizards.

A chart of the amount of time spent by different aged snakes in luring prey into striking range.
Approximate median amount of time spent caudal luring by each age-gender group of pygmy rattlesnakes to lure prey into striking range. No caudal luring behavior was displayed by any adult snakes, male or female (Recreated from Rabatsky&Waterman 2005).

Competitive mimicry

In a 2007 paper, Meredith Rainey and Gregory Grether explained another possible classification of mimicry that is often left out of other mimicry classifications and research. They argued that competitive mimicry, or mimicking another species to gain access to resources over a competitor, should be included in these lists. According to the paper, there are three types of competitive mimicry : mimicking a non-competitor, mimicking the competitor itself, and mimicking a competitor’s predator (Rainey&Grether 2007b). Mimicking a non-competitor is said to be beneficial because a competitor will not see you as a threat and will either share the resource or can be surprise attacked for it. An example given is some surgeonfish mimic angelfish in order to not be attacked by damselfish when invading the damselfish’s territory. A possible reason to mimic a competitor is if the competitor uses display against its own species during disputes, but fights against other species. This would allow the mimic, win or lose, to avoid costly battles with the mimicked species. Due to the complex nature of this form of mimicry, natural examples are not perfectly clear. The reasons for mimicking a competitor’s predator are obvious in that the mimic can scare off the competitor without costly displays or battles. Burrowing owls can make a hissing sound that sounds very similar to rattlesnakes and has been shown to scare away rodents from burrows that were too large for the owls to easily kill themselves.

Most of the species that have been found to use caudal luring are terrestrial species, but some arboreal species have been shown to use this as well (Murphy, Carpenter,&Gillingham 1978). It has also been shown that many of the species that use caudal luring have tails that are a slightly different color or are brighter than the rest of their bodies, especially as juveniles. Caudal luring does come with a cost, though. Puerto Rican racers, Alsophis portoricensis , were found to have much more tail damage than is normally found in non-caudal luring species (Barun, Perry, Henderson,&Powell2007). This means that it is highly likely that many snakes are attacked by lured prey before successfully killing them. Also, it is highly possible that predation is higher in species with brightly colored tails used for caudal luring than it otherwise would be because the combination of bright color and conspicuous tail movement will make them easier to spot than similar species that don't perform caudal luring. Another possible form of aggressive mimicry in snakes is known as “lingual luring” (see [link] ).

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Mockingbird tales: readings in animal behavior. OpenStax CNX. Jan 12, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11211/1.5
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