Dense Sampling Phylogenomics Reveals Highly Dynamic Evolution of Batesian Mimicry Accuracy in Two Clades of Myrmecomorphic Spiders

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Michael Kelly , Shahan Derkarabetian, Jim McLean, Ryan Shofner, Cristian Grismado, Charles Haddad, Gerasimos Cassis, Gonzalo Giribet, Marie E. Herberstein, Jonas Wolff


Batesian mimicry is an impressive example of convergent evolution driven by predation. However, the observation that many mimics only superficially resemble their models despite strong selective pressures is an apparent paradox. Here, we tested whether inaccurate mimicry represents an optimized or transitional stage at the macro-evolutionary scale by performing the hereto largest phylogenetic analysis of ant-mimicking spiders across two speciose clades, the jumping spider tribe Myrmarachnini (Salticidae) and the sac spider sub-family Castianeirinae (Corinnidae). We found that accurate ant mimicry evolved in a gradual process in both clades, by an integration of compound traits contributing to the ant-like habitus with each trait evolving at different speeds. Accurate states were highly unstable at the macro-evolutionary scale likely because strong expression of some of these traits comes with high fitness costs. Instead, the inferred global optimum of mimicry expression was at an inaccurate state. This result reverses the onus of explanation from inaccurate mimicry to explaining the exceptional evolution and maintenance of accurate mimicry and highlights that the evolution of Batesian mimicry is ruled by multiple conflicting selective pressures.



Animal Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Genetics and Genomics


Araneae, Castianeirinae, macro-evolution, Myrmarachnini, trait evolution


Published: 2024-01-14 20:33


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Open data/code are not available prior to peer reviewed publication.