IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Mimicking multiple models: polyphenetic masqueraders gain additional benefits from crypsis


  • John Skelhorn
  • Graeme D. Ruxton


Many prey organisms avoid predation by mimicking inanimate objects: a phenomenon known as masquerade. It is expected that masquerade will show a frequency-dependent advantage such that masquerading species benefit more from their appearance when they are rare in comparison with their models. In such circumstances, selection may favor the coexistence of different phenotypes (polyphenism or polymorphism). The American peppered moth caterpillar Biston betularia cognataria appears to show polyphenetic masquerade: caterpillars found on birch trees look like birch twigs; those on willow trees look like willow twigs. Here, we show in laboratory experiments that the caterpillar does benefit from masquerade and that polyphenism is key to this benefit: avian predators misclassified birch-fed larvae as birch twigs and willow-fed larvae as willow twigs. In a second experiment where the benefits of masquerade were excluded, we show that larvae are less likely to be attacked when located on the host species whose twigs they resemble than when found on an alternative species whose twigs they do not resemble; thus, the polyphenism provides antipredatory benefits through crypsis as well as through masquerade. This is the first time that a species has been demonstrated to have the capacity to benefit both from masquerade and from crypsis, and the first time, polyphenism has been demonstrated to benefit masquerade. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • John Skelhorn & Graeme D. Ruxton, 2011. "Mimicking multiple models: polyphenetic masqueraders gain additional benefits from crypsis," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22(1), pages 60-65.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:1:p:60-65

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:1:p:60-65. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.