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article imageScarlet kingsnakes are mimicking an extinct species

By Tim Sandle     Jun 14, 2014 in Science
Chapel Hill - A harmless snake, mainly found in the Carolina Sandhills, has been mimicking a poisonous species for decades for protection. The odd thing is, the species that is is mimicking has been extinct for over 50 years.
Christopher Akcali and David Pfennig of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill have revealed that scarlet kingsnakes (Lampropeltis elapsoides), a species of non-poisonous snakes that are common throughout the American Southeast, mimic a species that’s been extinct for more than 50 years. The species being copied, Nature News reports, is the the poisonous coral snake, which was last seen in the 1960s.
Discussing the implications, Pfennig told Live Science: "This selection continues to act, even after the coral snakes have gone completely extinct; presumably because there have not been enough generations of predators to cause a reversal in the avoidance of things that look like coral snakes, and because the fitness consequences to the predators of avoiding coral snakes—and, therefore, also their precise mimics—has been historically strong."
The results of the observations have been published in the journal Biology Letters ("Rapid evolution of mimicry following local model extinction").
More about Scarlet kingsnakes, Evolution, Extinction
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