Batesian vs Mullerian Mimicry: Difference and Comparison

The most basic rule of the world is Survival of the fittest. All species adapt in different ways to survive in this world. Many animals have been observed to practice mimicry to escape their predators.

Batesian and Mullerian mimicry are two types of survival methods observed in nature.

Key Takeaways

  1. Batesian Mimicry is a type of Mimicry where a harmless species mimics the appearance of a dangerous or poisonous species.
  2. Mullerian Mimicry is a type of Mimicry where two or more dangerous or poisonous species evolve to share the same warning signals.
  3. While Batesian Mimicry benefits the mimicking species, Mullerian Mimicry benefits all the species involved, as predators learn to avoid them all.

Batesian vs Mullerian Mimicry

The difference between the two types of mimicry is that Batesian is one harmless species adopting the looks or characteristics of a harmful species to stay protected. In contrast, Mullerian mimicry is when similar species showcase similar characteristics to avoid their predators.

Batesian vs Mullerian Mimicry

When a harmless species evolves itself to showcase characteristics of another harmful species to confuse its predator and hence stay protected.


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The unprotected prey species: also called mimics, gain protection from predators by mimicking their warning calls, looks, patterns of skins, and more. This is a very classic example of evolution by natural selection.

Similarly, when two or more well-defended species share common predators, they mimic each other’s honest warning calls for mutual benefits. It is called Mullerian mimicry.

These species are often foul-tasting and inedible. Warning signals are for the predators to notice them and be warned that they are inedible and unrelated species. Having similar signals prevents predators from hunting them too. For example, similar colour patterns.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonBatesianMullerian
DefinitionIt is when a noxious or dangerous species is mimicked by its prey species and are thus spared by the model.This is when two or more well-protected species show similar mannerisms as a shared protective aid.
Type of mimic animalHarmless animals showcase it.Dangerous animals showcase it.
Type of relationshipIt is a type of parasitic relationship.It is a type of mutualistic relationship.
BenefactorThe mimic is the benefactor in this case.The mimic and model are both the benefactors in this case.
Abundance of speciesThe model should be abundant in the area.The model and mimic should be abundant in the area.

What is Batesian Mimicry?

Batesian mimicry is when harmless prey mimics its predator to stay protected. It is named after English naturalist Henry Walter Bates. The prey or the mimic mimics its predator or the model.

The model considering the mimic as one of its leaves it alone, and thus the mimic prevents being hunted.

This is a case of defensive mimicry. The mimicry includes but is not limited to the visual aid. It encompasses auditory signals and polymorphism.

Sometimes, prey (mimic) may adopt characteristics of aposematic animals(model) to make them look distasteful purposely.

This form of mimicry avoids any confrontation between the mimic and the model.

For example, some tiger moths are aposematic by sound and are mimicked by pyralid moths; even though they aren’t foul-tasting, they emit similar sounds.

The success of this method widely depends on how dangerous the model is and its abundance in the area due to frequency-dependent selection.

The form of Batesian mimicry where the mimic doesn’t exactly copy the model is called imperfect Batesian mimicry.

A fly species known as Spilomyia longicornis mimics vespid wasps. The fly doesn’t have antennas like the wasps, so they put their front legs over their heads to make them look like the antennas of the wasp.

batesian mimicry

What is Mullerian Mimicry?

Mullerian mimicry is when two unrelated species adopt similar characteristics for protection from predators. This concept was first proposed by German zoologist Fritz Muller.

This phenomenon was initially received with general skepticism. All predators first sample their prey before learning the lesson that they are inedible.

They stop hunting animals that look similar to the first one. Other unrelated species evolve to have a similar colour or pattern as the predators have learned to avoid them.

There is, however, a disadvantage to this method as there is a loss when the predator makes the initial contact and learns the lesson.

One life will always be lost to teach the other species a lesson. But other species that copy them do not have to make that sacrifice and are thus well protected.

One of the most common examples of this mimicry is seen in butterflies.

Different butterflies adopt similar wings and colour patterns, so the predators cannot distinguish between the edible and non-edible species and thus avoid them.

It is not necessary for mimicry to virtual. Many-a-times, snakes use similar auditory signals to avoid being recognized by predators.

mullerian mimicry

Main Differences Between Batesian and Mullerian Mimicry

The main difference between the two types is that Batesian is a harmless species mimicking its predator. In contrast, Mullerian mimicry is two similar species exhibiting similar characteristics to share the loss incurred during initial contact. Other differences are:

  1. Batesian is a parasitic relationship, and only the mimic benefits, whereas Mullerian is a mutualistic relationship, and both the mimic and model benefit.
  2. Batesian requires the model to exist in abundance, whereas, in Mullerian, the model and mimic may exist in equal abundance.
  3. Less dangerous animals exhibit Batesian. On the other hand, Mullerian mimicry is exhibited by well-protected species.
  4. The success of Batesian mimicry depends on accurately deceitful the mimic can be, which is not precisely the case for Mullerian mimicry.
  5. Even though the two concepts sound similar, Batesian was proposed by Henry Bates and Mullerian was proposed by Fritz Muller.
Difference Between Batesian and Mullerian Mimicry

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