04 February 2015

Borrowing from jellies’ book of tricks: Batesian Mimicry, a leptocephali scheme for predator avoidance

Anguilliform larvae mimicking gelatinous zooplankton (Frame grabbed from video at Australian.museum.net.au)

Nobody wants to be a part someone’s diet but nature dictates that animals face the dynamics of predator-prey relationships. Animals use various schemes to defend and protect themselves from enemies and predators and Batesian mimicry is one of the morphological strategies utilized by invertebrate and vertebrate species in the ocean. It is an adaptation of a usually harmless species where it mimics a dangerous organism to avoid predation. Researchers hypothesized that this is used by leptocephali, the transparent larvae of eels and their close relatives. In times of danger or trouble, these organisms coil their laterally compressed jelly-like bodies making a resemblance to gelatinous zooplankton such as jellyfish, ctenophores, siphonophores, and salps. These gelatinous zooplankton are usually avoided by other marine species due to their stinging defenses or low food value. Therefore, mimicking their round-shaped appearance gives the leptocephali a great escape strategy from their own predators. However, further observations will be needed to confirm this batesian mimicry by these organisms.

To watch videos of  leptocephalus curling behavior, visit Australian.museum.net.au.

Miller, M.J., M.D. Norman, K. Tsukamoto, and J.K. Finn. 2013. Evidence of mimicry of gelatinous zooplankton by anguilliform leptocephali for predator avoidance. Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology, 2013. Vol. 45, No. 6, 375-384. 

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