Follow TV Tropes


Mimic Species

Go To
Mimikyu (right) imitates Pikachu (left) out of a desire to be loved.
A particular species mimicking the traits of another species, whether to avoid/discourage predation, or make predation easier through ambushing, is a phenomenon often found in evolution over long periods of time where said species adapts to the relations of other species for their own benefit. Unlike short-term shapeshifting, this happens through the evolutionary process of adaptation and almost always applies to the species as a whole instead at the behest of a crafty individual.

Wikipedia has an article regarding mimicry here, making this Truth in Television. Super-Trope to Chest Monster, where a species disguises itself as an innocuous item, usually found in Video Games, to trick the player into a hostile encounter, and Ambushing Enemy, where an enemy disguises itself as part of the scenery before attacking. Compare Ass in a Lion Skin, where an animal disguises itself as another, but on an individual and artificial scale.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • The Marsupilami comics have an example that's mostly played for laughs. The Palombian Imalipusram is a thin and lengthy snake colored yellow and black, already looking like the long tail of a Marsupilami. When attacked by a predator such as a jaguar, it inflates a sack at the extremity of its tail, which takes the shape of a Marsupilami's body. Most predators are wary of tangling with an adult Marsupilami, and will be scared away from eating the snake.

  • After Man: A Zoology of the Future:
    • The oakleaf toad is this trope for smaller invertebrate-eating animals. Camouflaged by the leaf-like appearance of its body, it lures in prey such as shrews or small birds with its tongue, which resembles an earthworm.
    • The flower-faced potoo and the flooer (a flightless bat) both have faces resembling flowers, which they use to attract pollinating insects to eat.
  • The Cabbage Frog in The Discworld Almanack is a frog that grows large flaps of skin that resemble cabbage leaves, and then waits for butterflies to try to lay eggs on it.
  • "If You Was a Moklin" features an alien species that can choose the appearance of their offspring, and consider imitation the highest form of flattery, and love the human traders that visit their planet.
  • InCryptid: The sheer number of cryptid species that resemble humans to one degree or another is explained as being the result of a variety of sapient species all evolving to look more human in order to fool their main predator: humans.
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles: The field guide mentions on the page for the cockatrice that "false cockatrices" exist as well, mimicking the much more dangerous species to deter predators.
  • In The Sparrow, the Runa and Jana'ata look very similar despite not being that closely related because the Jana'ata are predators of the Runa that evolved to mimic their prey so they could get close to them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Future Is Wild has two examples, both in the Antarctic Rainforest segment.
    • The False Spitfire Bird looks identical to the Spitfire Bird, which is able to spray a caustic acid from its nostrils at predators. This resemblance means that predators avoid the False Spitfire Bird as well.
    • The Spitfire Beetle is this to a Spitfire Bird. The bird normally goes to a certain flower to stock up on chemicals for its Super Spit. Four Spitfire Beetles work together to form a fake flower, attracting the bird, which they all jump on and take down.
  • Star Trek: Romulans, being related to Vulcans, look a lot like them, except for the fact that most of them have a V-shaped ridge on their foreheads. Because of this, they often pretend to be Vulcans for ulterior reasons. Technically they're the same species, as Romulans are the descendants of a group of Vulcans who rejected the ideology of logic and chose to leave their homeworld.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The wolf-in-sheep's-clothing is a monster from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition. It's a plant creature looking like a tree stump with root tentacles and a hidden maw, with a growth on top that resembles a small furry creature to attract its prey. The classical illustration shows it with a white bunny surmounting the trunk. It was adapted to Pathfinder and 5th Edition, although here the lure is no longer part of the creature but a corpse animated by tendrils.
    • Gas spores are creatures that greatly resemble much more dangerous beholders. They are almost completely harmless if left alone. They are also extremely fragile, and any damage to their main body will cause the creature to burst open and spray toxic spores on everyone nearby. Gas spores are Schmuck Bait in RPG monster form.

    Video Games 
  • Bonk: Black Flowers mimic the normally helpful Red Flowers, all the way until Bonk lands on them. Then they shed all trace of benevolence and attack him.
  • Bug Fables makes references to real-life mimicry in the insect kingdom.
    • The Mantidfly looks very similar to the Wasp Scouts encountered earlier in the game. If scanned by Vi and Kabbu, they fall for it and assume they're the latter. Only Leif manages to see through the charade and refer to it by its proper name.
    • The Mimic Spider masquerades as sentient ants in the Forsaken Lands, using its forelegs to look like antennae. Get too close and they show their true, spidery form. Vi and Kabbu really don't like getting surprised like that.
    • Various characters are actually mimic species that hang around the areas where they'd fit right in, most of them bees, such as Hawk the hawk moth. The Big Bad, Hoaxe the Wasp King, isn't even a wasp, but a fly mimic, and is a usurper of the throne.
  • Digimon: Omekamon mimics Omegamon of the Famed in Story Royal Knights since it doesn't have an identity of its own. Whereas Omegamon is a magnificent knight, Omekamon looks like a shoddy imitation made of papier-mâché that's been crudely doodled on.
  • Hollow Knight: Grub Mimics pretend to be harmless grubs that are trapped in glass jars in hopes of ambushing an unwary player that tries to rescue them. Before attacking they are completely identical to the regular grubs: the only way to tell that one is a mimic is to use the Dream Nail to read their thoughts before breaking the jar. A regular grub always thinks of its home, while a Grub Mimic thinks things like "Empty", "Kill" and "Other".
  • Metroid Fusion: X Parasites work by assimilating and then replicating whatever they infect to a near indistinguishable degree once they get used to how a host works.
  • Pikmin: Dwarf Bulborbs aren't larval Bulborbs, but Breadbug mimics who adapted to mimic the larger predators' appearance in order to avoid predation, as stated from Pikmin 2 forward (the first game has them act more like juvenile Bulborbs as their cries will attract larger Bulborbs). Averted with the dwarf Bulbears, which really are larval Bulbears.
  • Pokémon: There are numerous species of Pokémon that make use of mimicry:
    • Voltorbs resemble Pokéballs, actually appearing in the world as unassuming item balls to lure unsuspecting players only to ambush them when they try to pick them up. Foongus and Amoongus in the Gen V games use similar tactics.
    • Mimikyu is a ghost that conceals its true form (that acts as a Brown Note to anyone unfortunate enough to see it) with old merchandise to take advantage of Pikachu's popularity.
    • An example in hindsight can be found in Sudowoodo, a rock-type Pokémon that disguises itself as a tree. When the actually tree-like Trevenant was introduced later, it was possible to see a Sudowoodo in a horde of Trevenant in Kalos. It's also a case of type mimicry. Sudowoodo appears, at a glance, to be a grass-type Pokémon. This discourages unknowing trainers from using Water-types against it, as Grass resists Water while Rock is weak to it.
    • The Pokémon Lurantis is based on the famous orchid mantis, except that it actually is an orchid flower pretending to be a mantis that imitates an orchid flower.

    Web Original 
  • Hamster's Paradise: The mimicking falsehound is a species of the canine-like lycanines that mimic the appearance of their distant, sapient relative, the northhound, as a way of deterring predators like the tigerilla or other lycanine species. They do this because many of these predators will avoid the northhound due to the latter's capacity for weapon use and planned retaliation, the falsehound will even mimic those behaviors by carrying sticks in their mouth even if they can't use them as a weapon like the northhounds can. Some individuals will even use there appearance to steal from the northhound's food caches by gaining their scent from their latrines and passively imitating their behavior to sneak past. They're usually foiled when the packs start using a password system which the non-sapient falsehound isn't capable of understanding and are chased off. Most northhounds only see them as a nuisance and are content to simply drive them away but the more xenophobic drysanders see them as trickster demons and attempt to kill any that try to sneak in, a practice that sometimes gets foreign northhounds lynched when they don't understand the drysander's dialect.

    Real Life 
  • Batesian mimicry is the tendency for certain non-predatory species to evolve in such a way that they resemble a more dangerous species in order to deter potential predators. For example, one species of the harmless milk snake has evolved to resemble the poisonous coral snake.
  • The Viceroy Butterfly is one of the more well-known cases of this, imitating the more well-known Monarch Butterfly as a defense mechanism against potential predators — the Monarch is known to taste really bad to any predator unlucky enough to eat one, so any butterfly bearing similar marks to the Monarch is immediately avoided. Science Marches On, though, as it turns out that the Viceroy also tastes bad to predators, and it appears that both species evolved to mimic each other to their mutual benefit. This is known as Müllerian mimicry.
  • The mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) is named for its uncanny ability to imitate different sea creatures, including flounders, lionfish, and sea snakes, to avoid detection from predators.
  • Some species of deadly poisonous mushroom are notorious for this since the eye can mistake them for edible species easily enough. For example, certain species of genus Amanita have been given the appellation of "destroying angel" and have caused poisoning and deaths due to being mistaken for edible Agaricus mushrooms (both kinds in question are solid white and look fairly unremarkable).
  • The spider-tailed horned viper relies on this to hunt. Its tail is evolved to resemble an arachnid, which it uses to lure in birds for food.
  • The mealybug destroyer looks very similar to the mealybugs that it feeds on during its larval stage.