Illustration of Müllerian mimicry

1878 Müllerian mimicry

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Fritz Müller evolution Illustration of Müllerian mimicry

Müllerian mimicry

Fritz Müller, the great German naturalist, discovered that some unpalatable species mimic each other to mutually ward off predators. Different species collaborate, as it were, to show common colors to warn away predators that can learn from their mistakes.

Other discoveries

Azteca trees grow Müller bodies to feed the ants that protect them. Some stingless honey-bees squirt a stinging venom; others make nice pets. The females of some midges either suck blood or laps nectar and they have different mouth parts. Termites are not ants; their castes have both male and female members. In defense of Darwin’s theory of evolution, Müller argued that natural selection was correct.


Art imitates life; bugs imitate leaves; all have reasons. Growing crystals imitate plants; yes, but we like there to be a reason for the similarity.

Fritz Müller supported Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin incorporated some of Müller’s work in the second edition of his Fertilisation of Orchids. Darwin had Müller’s first paper in English translated and published, and in 1864 Müller wrote Für Darwin to support Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin wrote letters of support and offered Müller financial help during Müller’s retirement.

See also in The book of science:

Readings in wikipedia: