Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0005484, Wed, 20 Sep 2000 20:36:34 -0700

Nabokov and Mimicry (fwd)
From: Kurt Johnson <belina@dellnet.com>

From: Arthur Glass <goliard@worldnet.att.net>
> The whole idea of 'perfection' sounds very Plaronic to me. Or is
perfection defined as a mimic strategy that is 100% successful?

This same point came up in discussions at NYTimes.com Nabokov forum and is
an important distinction to make. On face, I think most people mean
perfection of detail in the mimic (re the model). However, there is also
the element of how successful the imitation is. I'm sure in mimicry
genetics, as Jim Mallet might inform us, thay have a jargon that clearly
distinguishes these elements. I'll ask him tomorrow. As he points out in
his initial post, some quite different levels "perfection" in the detail of
the mimic versus the model seem to "work"...he noted the quite different
placement of red spots in certain swallowtail butterflies that, simply
because of their proximity to the general area (thorax/ anal margin of
hindwing), appear to function well for protection of the mimic. Of course,
as you may remember from Nabokov's Blues, the precise definitions and lines
of definition re Mullerian (all toxic) versus Batesian (only model toxic)
mimicry have blurred with continued research. There are all kinds of
variations on the these of how butterflies appear to exploit some mimetic
advantage. In some swallowtails where the "warning red color" only appears
on the hindwings, the butterflies "decouple" those wings while hovering at
nectar so that the forewings sustain the hovering but the hindwings are at
rest displaying the warning color. In a survey of potential mimetic
patterns in Lycaenids I noted that there appeared to be various used of
forewing upper only, hindwing upper only, forewing under only, hindwing
under only, forewing and hindwing upper only, forewing and hindwing lower
only where potential mimetic or warning color patterns occurred. This was
sneared at for some time but was before wing decoupling was recognized.
Now, its pretty well accepted, as Jim mentioned, that their can be variously
"refined" attainments (I was tempted to say "attempt at" but that's
teleological!) of mimetic or warning colors. In Nabokov's Blues we noted
that the orange color that may be tied to mimicry of the toxic plant feeder
Pseudolucia chilensis occurred in numerous levels of intensity and location
on the wing, not only in the blues that may be a part of this ring, but the
hairstreaks and day flying moths as well.

You make a good point. I hope the elaboration is of use.