A Glimpse into Nature’s Defense Systems

There is a surprising range of living organisms on the globe, from the robust rubber tree towering over the forest to the rattlesnake slithering over the hot desert to the penguin waddling through the Antarctic tundra. Relationships between different species are one way that interspecies interactions are displayed such as those of a predator and a prey, or those that are advantageous to both, which is known as a symbiotic relationship.
Let’s examine the prey-predator connection in more detail. A lion attempting to capture a deer is one such example. In this case, the predator is a lion, the deer is the prey. The deer has evolved defence measures to protect itself, including mobility and the existence of eyes on its sides.

Prey animals frequently use mimicry, which is the act of imitating an organism that the predator is most likely to veer off to rescue themselves. Most ecological mimicry consists of Millerian mimicry and Batesian mimicry.
Let’s say that two creatures, A and B, are both in danger from a single threat, creature C. A and B would both create defences to fend off C. A might create spines on its epidermis, while B may emit an offensive odour. But first, both prey species would need to be able to successfully repel the predator, therefore expose themselves to it and inevitably lose some of their members as a result.
To get around this, A and B copy each other’s defences. Now, if C is turned away by A’s copied defence, and B will also be protected from it as well because the latter displays the same adaptations as the former. This win-win situation promotes the preservation of both prey species and is referred to as Mullerian imitation.

In the case of Batesian mimicry, the prey imitates a creature that the predator may find dangerous in order to get away from it. To avoid being discovered by potential predators, the non-venomous king snake, for example, mimics its venomous counterpart, the coral snake.
Another illustration is a school of little fish moving in a configuration that resembles a larger fish.

However, not all mimicry is necessarily visible. Some moths have developed an acoustic camouflage technique that allows them to block the bat’s ultrasonic transmissions and avoid its radar. The moths that bats can consume imitate the sounds and signals made by moths that bats do not find appetising and are therefore not interested in.

A particular species can survive and prosper in its natural habitat thanks to these modifications that enable it to avoid being eaten by a predator. Hence, a predator must improve its performance in order to maintain its food source, and in this way, the cycle of evolution is maintained.
Feature image retrieved from: https://unsplash.com/photos/YV593oyMKmo

Anannya Sharma

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