Deception in Fruit Flies

The wings of the Goniurellia tridens fruit fly have images of an ant on them, to deceive predators: "When threatened, the fly flashes its wings to give the appearance of ants walking back and forth. The predator gets confused and the fly zips off."

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Posted on November 6, 2013 at 1:53 PM • 15 Comments

Comments

EovelNovember 6, 2013 3:21 PM

They're most likely not mimicking anything. They're just zeroing on whatever pattern causes a "go away" reaction on the predator, which is probably in turn evolved in the predator based on whatever set of inputs got it as a species to be better off going away from.

LsuomaNovember 6, 2013 3:40 PM

The use of the word "mimicking" was not meant to imply intentionality of any other sort of teleology. It is simply a convenient way to refer to a particular result of evolution by natural selection, nothing more.

ScottNovember 6, 2013 3:59 PM

Too bad this doesn't work on people; I would definitely tattoo giant spiders on my wings.

"Hi, would you like a free thetan.... AHHHH! SPIDERS!!!"

BryanNovember 6, 2013 4:02 PM

@Eovel

They're most likely not mimicking anything. They're just zeroing on whatever pattern causes a "go away" reaction on the predator, which is probably in turn evolved in the predator based on whatever set of inputs got it as a species to be better off going away from.
I'd have to agree. Evolution has no knowledge to go on, just random changes that may or may not help survival for the conditions present. I think this issue trips up most people on evolution.

WaelNovember 6, 2013 4:37 PM

Each wing carries a precisely detailed image of an ant-like insect, complete with six legs, two antennae, a head, thorax and tapered abdomen.
Two responses: One religious (as subtle as a freight train): Amazing how a mindless, brainless "nature" paints a detailed image on an insect's wing. Not only did it paint it, it kept honing on the right image, until it succeeded in repelling predictors. As if the insects that had the wrong image (and consequently gotten consumed) relayed to the continuum of insects: "Change the image, change the ima.. ouch, ouch, stop it!!!". Or alternatively, there were zillions of insects with all possible images (what are the possibilities), and the one with the right image survived. Sadly, the ones with the wrong image were eaten alive... I can play with the piraña, too. Eh, Dirk Praet? ;)

The other, Security related:
What if an ant eater comes along? "My, My!!! nice! I'll eat two ants with one lick!"

Tim LNovember 6, 2013 4:53 PM

@Lsuoma

Natural selection is a sort of teleology.

Living things are naturally selected to seek values which sustain their life.

Individual organisms that act successfully to acheive that goal are then capable of reproducing.

Even plants, which are not capable of purposeful action, are goal-directed -- phototropism is teleological.

See 'The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts' by Harry Binswanger for more.

Dirk PraetNovember 6, 2013 7:48 PM

@ Wael

I can play with the piraña, too. Eh, Dirk Praet?

Someone really should come up with a beautiful parable about this phenomenon. Then again, they are still screwed when a gang of sparrows, wrens, flickers, grouse or starlings comes along.

WmNovember 7, 2013 6:56 AM

@ Dirk Praet?

"...they are still screwed when a gang of sparrows, wrens, flickers, grouse or starlings comes along."

You left out an anteater.

anonymous cowardNovember 7, 2013 10:17 PM

Just like the NSA playing the "terrorist card". They aren't actually looking for terrorists or could not have possibly missed the underwear bomber (who was reported to US authorities by his father ahead of time) or the Boston bombers (one of which being on a terrorist watch list), but they can deceive large parts of the population just by playing that card.

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