Difference Between Camouflage and Mimicry

The main difference between camouflage and mimicry is that the camouflage is an adaptation that allows animals to blend with their surroundings, using a type of coloration or pattern. Mimicry is the ability of an organism to imitate morphological as well the physiological characteristics and behavior of unrelated organisms.

Both camouflage and mimicry are two types of mechanisms used by animals either for protection or predation.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Camouflage
     – Definition, Types, Examples
2. What is Mimicry
     – Definition, Types, Examples
3. What are the Similarities Between Camouflage and Mimicry
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Camouflage and Mimicry
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Concealing Coloration, Disruptive Coloration, Defensive Mimicry, Disguise, Non-defensive Mimicry

Difference Between Camouflage and Mimicry - Comparison Summary

What is Camouflage

Camouflage is an adaptation that allows animals to blend with their surroundings, using a type of coloration or pattern. It is also known as crypsis. By camouflaging, either the preys hide themselves from the predator or predators conceal themselves as they stalk the prey. There are several types of camouflage such as concealing coloration, disruptive coloration and disguise.

Concealing Coloration

Some animals have fixed patterns of colors, which blend with the environment. As an example, marine flatfish and stonefish have coloration that resembles the seabed. Also, snowy owls and polar bears have white coloration.

Disruptive Coloration

Disruptive coloration includes strips, spots, and other patterns, which break up the outline of the animal’s shape. Figure 1 shows the disruptive coloration in a Leopard.

Difference Between Camouflage and Mimicry

Figure 1: Concealing Coloration

Disguise

In disguise, animals appear as something else in the environment. For example, some insects disguise themselves as leaves. Figure  2 shows a bright green katydid in a basil plant.

Difference Between Camouflage and Mimicry

Figure 2: Bright Green Katydid in a Basil Plant

What is Mimicry

Mimicry is the resemblance of an organism to other organisms in appearance or behavior to protect itself from predation. In this, the mimic resembles the model organism. The two main types of mimicry are defensive mimicry and non-defensive mimicry.

Defensive Mimicry

This helps organisms to protect them from predators. The three types of defensive mimicry are Batesian mimicry, Müllarian mimicry, and Mertensian mimicry.

Batesian Mimicry 

This is the exhibition of unpalatable and harmful characteristics by a palatable and harmless animal. It saves the mimic from the predator. Non-poisonous scarlet kingsnake using the coloration of the poisonous coral snake is an example of this mimicry.

Müllerian Mimicry

Müllarian mimicry is the exhibition of similar characteristics by two unpalatable and harmful animals to get the advantage of shared protection. The red postman butterfly and the common postman butterfly exhibiting the almost similar placement of dots on their wings are an example of Müllerian mimicry.

Main Difference - Camouflage vs Mimicry

Figure 3: Müllerian Mimicry
Viceroy Butterfly (top), Monarch Butterfly (bottom)

Mertensian Mimicry

Mertensian mimicry is the exhibition of less harmful characteristics by a deadly species.

Non-Defensive Mimicry

Predators use non-defensive mimicry for being unnoticed by their prey. Aggressive mimicry is a type of non-defensive mimicry. Here, predators share similar signals with the use of a harmless model. For example, figure 4 shows the bright leaves of the venus flytrap that serve as the petals of a flower, and thus, attracting insects .

Difference Between Camouflage and Mimicry_Figure 4

Figure 4: Bright Leaves of the Venus Flytrap

Similarities Between Camouflage and Mimicry

  • Camouflage and mimicry are both biological phenomena used for being protected by predators.
  • Both have imitating morphological characteristics.

Difference Between Camouflage and Mimicry

Definition

Camouflage: Adaptation that allows animals to blend with their surroundings using a type of coloration or pattern

Mimicry: Ability of an organism to imitate morphological as well the physiological characteristics and behavior of unrelated organisms

Resemblance

Camouflage: Resemble their environment

Mimicry: Mainly resemble another animal

Characteristics

Camouflage: Includes morphological characteristics

Mimicry: Includes morphological, physiological, or behavioral characteristics

Purpose

Camouflage: The main purpose is to hide in the environment

Mimicry: The main purpose is to avoid predators

Occurrence

Camouflage: Occurs in animals

Mimicry: Occurs in both animals and plants

Types

Camouflage: Concealing coloration, disruptive coloration, and disguise are the three types 

Mimicry: Batesian mimicry, Müllerian mimicry, Mertensian mimicry, and aggressive mimicry are various types 

Conclusion

Camouflage is the ability of animals to blend with the environment using the coloration and patterns while mimicry is the ability of organisms to resemble another organism. This is the main difference between camouflage and mimicry. Both camouflage and mimicry help in the protection or predation.

Reference:

1. Klappenbach, Laura. “How Do Animals Use Camouflage?” ThoughtCo, Available here.
2. “Mimicry in Animals: Definition, Types & Examples.” Explainry, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Great male Leopard in South Afrika-JD” By original by Lukas Kaffer (Super.lukas); crops and changes by JD – Image:Great male Leopard in South Afrika.JPG (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Katydid camouflaged in basil plant” By Jeff Kwapil – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
3. “BatesMimButter” By DRosenbach – Collage of en:File:Viceroy 2.jpg by D. Gordon E. Robertson and en:File:Monarch Butterfly Danaus plexippus Male 2664px.jpg by Derek Ramsey (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
4. “Venus Flytrap showing trigger hairs” (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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