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Commun Integr Biol. 2013 Jul 1;6(4):e24586. doi: 10.4161/cib.24586. Epub 2013 Apr 12.

Natural-born con artists and counterfeiters: Who is being deceived here?

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Australian Institute of Marine Science; The Oceans Institute; University of Western Australia; Crawley, WA Australia.


Deception is ubiquitous in plant and animal kingdoms and is widely thought to provide selective advantages to the individual and evolutionary success to the species. Mimicry, a form of deception whereby an individual imitates their model to advantage by closely resembling their behavior or appearance, is particularly well documented and represented by the peripheral eyespots seen on the wings of many butterfly species. The significance of butterfly eyespots has been convincingly demonstrated to serve as an anti-predatory function either by imitation of a predator's own dangerous enemies (intimidation hypothesis) or by deflecting predator strikes toward less-vital parts of the body (deflection hypothesis). A convincing and compelling explanation in butterflies, the functional role of eyespots as anti-predatory devices has become a widely held and firmly entrenched belief that has been freely adopted into other systems. Here we comment on a recent paper that demonstrates a vastly different role for eyespots, that of intra-specific male-male competition, and make the point that even long-held beliefs need to be tested and challenged under different contexts if we are not to be deceived ourselves.


adaptive coloration; anti-predator strategies; camouflage; conspicuousness; deceptive behaviors; eyespots; fish; mimicry; reliability; visual signals

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