Difference Between Batesian and Mullerian Mimicry (With Table)

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 as a means to escape their predators. Batesian and Mullerian mimicry are two types of survival methods observed in nature.

Batesian vs Mullerian Mimicry

The difference between the two types of mimicries is that Batesian is one harmless species adopting the looks or characteristics of a harmful species to stay protected whereas Mullerian mimicry is when similar species showcase similar characteristics to avoid their predators. Many people are often confused between the two.

When a harmless species evolves itself to showcase characteristics of another harmful species to confuse its predator and hence stay protected. The unprotected prey species: also called mimics, gain protection from predators by mimicking their warning calls, looks, and patterns of skins, and more. This is a very classic example of evolution by natural selection.

In a similar situation, 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 color patterns.

Comparison Table Between Batesian and Mullerian Mimicry

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 mannerism as a shared protective aid.
Type of mimic animalIt is showcased by harmless animals.It is showcased by dangerous animals.
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 both are 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 in order 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 own leaves it alone and thus the mimic prevents being hunted.

This is a case of defensive mimicry. The mimicry is including but not limited to the visual aid. It encompasses auditory signals, polymorphism. Sometimes, preys(mimic) may adopt characteristics of aposematic animals(model) to purposely make them look distasteful. This form of mimicry is avoiding any kind of confrontation between the mimic and model. For example, some tiger moths are aposematic by sound and are mimicked by pyralid moths who even though aren’t foul-tasting but 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 up over their heads to make them look like antennas of the wasp.

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 having a similar color or pattern as the predators have learned to avoid them. There is however the disadvantage to this method as there is a loss when the predator makes the initial contact and learns the lesson. There will always be one life 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 species of butterflies adopt a similar wing and color pattern so that the predators cannot distinguish between the edible and non-edible species and thus avoid them together. It is not necessary for mimicry to virtual. Many-a-times snakes use similar auditory signals to avoid being recognized by predators.

Main Differences Between Batesian and Mullerian Mimicry

The main difference between the two types is that Batesian is a harmless species mimicking its predator whereas Mullerian mimicry is two similar species exhibiting similar characteristics to share the loss incurred while 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 be existent in abundance whereas in Mullerian both the model and mimic may be existing in equal abundance.
  3. Batesian is exhibited by less dangerous animals. 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 exactly 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.


In conclusion, Batesian mimicry is a mimicry of one superior or predator species by an inferior or prey species as the mechanism of defense. Mullerian mimicry is two similar or unrelated species sharing a defense mechanism against a common more superior species.

The mimic in Batesian mimicry although can only mimic the external characteristics up to a certain extent. It cannot contain attack mechanisms; for example, toxins or snake venom is not owned by the mimic like its model. It is an imposter. In Mullerian mimicry, no deception is involved as such. Many examples of mimicry have been observed in nature over the years.

Adaptation and evolution have led to species improving their survival rate each day. Different species keep learning and observing and take into effect whichever technique suits them best. But even then, nature creates balance. Only the fittest, in this case deceitful, survive.


  1. https://academic.oup.com/biolinnean/article-abstract/13/1/1/2682689
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.0014-3820.2004.tb01708.x

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