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No. 95: Sep-Oct 1994

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The urge to replicate: part i

The inside front cover of the March 1944 issue of BioScience displays five pairs of colorful butterflies. Each member of each pair is virtually a duplicate of its partner in shape, design, and colors. Yet, each member of each pair is a different species. Although the pairs are from the same geographical regions, it is not obvious why this astounding mimicry should occur. Here, one cannot invoke the explanation that one species gains an evolutionary advantage by mimicking an unpalatable species, as with mimics of the Monarch Butterfly. That is, there seems to be no evolutionary advantage to looking alike.

(Miller, Julie Ann; BioScience, inside front cover, March 1994. Miller's editorial remarks are based upon a later article by H.F. Nijhout, who also supplied the photographs. Nijhout's article explains how butterfly wing patterns may have evolved.)

Comment. Cases of remarkable mimicry also occur among geographically separated species. For example, the North American Meadowlarks are dead ringers for the African Yellow-throated Longclaw. "Convergent evolution" names the phenomenon but doesn't tell how or why long chains of random mutations can come up with the same designs where there seems to be no "guidance" by the forces of natural selection. Perhaps genomes contain "subprograms" for those patterns and structures often used in biology. Of course, Sheldrake's idea of "morphic resonance" also applies here!

From Science Frontiers #95, SEP-OCT 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss