A 15-year study by entomologists found that, when living apart from the unsavory bug it mimics, the viceroy butterfly becomes yucky, making biologists rethink old theories about animal mimicry.
The viceroy butterfly is a mimic, modeling its orange-and-black colors after the queen butterfly, a bug that tastes so disgusting predators have learned not to eat it or anything that looks like it, including viceroys.
The apparent dependence of mimics on their models made biologists wonder if the fates of the two species are forever intertwined. If so, then what happens when the mimic and the model part ways?
The classical theory, called Batesian mimicry, posits that one animal, known as the mimic, looks like another animal, the model that predators recognize as "unpalatable."
An unpleasant experience trying to munch on the model species convinces predators to avoid both species, since they cannot reliably tell the difference between the two.