The Royal Society

Supplementary material from "Morphological ant mimics: constrained to imperfection?"

Posted on 2024-02-08 - 14:38
Adaptive evolution relies on both heritable variation and selection. Variation is the raw material upon which selection acts, so any mechanism that limits or prevents the generation of heritable variation reduces the power of selection to lead to adaptation. Such limitations are termed evolutionary constraints. While it is widely accepted that constraints play an important role in shaping evolutionary outcomes, their relative importance, as opposed to adaptation, in determining evolutionary outcomes remains a subject of debate. Evolutionary constraints are often evoked as the reason behind the persistence of inaccurate mimicry. Here, we compared the variation and accuracy of body-shape mimicry in ant-mimicking spiders with that of ant-mimicking insects, predicting greater constraints, and hence inaccuracy, in spiders mimicking ants, due to their evolutionary distance from the ant model. We found high inter-species variation in mimetic accuracy, but dorsally, no overall difference in mimetic accuracy between spider and insect mimics, which is inconsistent with a constraint causing inaccurate mimicry. Our study provides empirical evidence suggesting that imperfect mimicry in spiders and insects is predominantly shaped by adaptive processes rather than constraints or chance. Our findings contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying evolutionary diversity and the processes that shape phenotypic outcomes.


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