Cases of Mimicry (in the broadest sense)

mentioned by Nabokov

 with hyperlinks to the entry under which they are discussed



True (Batesian) Mimicry

Imitation of a noxious species


— having defended a big dissertation on mimicry ("Dvoe"/"The Two", poem, 1919)

— a geometrid moth mimicking a small Parnassius (Gift 103): »Austautia simonoides

— a tropical geometrid colored in perfect imitation of a species of butterfly infinitely removed from it in nature's system (Gift 110-1): »Papilio laglaizei

— that famous African swallowtail, whose variously disguised females copy in color, shape and even flight half a dozen different species (apparently inedible), which are also the models of numerous other mimics (Gift 111): »Papilio dardanus

— A white Skipper mimicking a Cabbage butterfly belonging to a different family (Int1 127): »Heliopetes laviana

— Lemonias zela … belongs to a tremendous family of South American butterflies, and they mimic all kinds of butterflies belonging to other families. Keeping up with the Smiths, you know (Int1 128): »Emesis zela, »Riodininae

— I didn't see any difference between a Monarch butterfly and a Viceroy. The taste of both was vile, but I had no ill effects (Int1 130): »Danaus plexippus, »Basilarchia archippus

— the newly described, fantastically rare vanessian, Nymphalis danaus Nab., orange-brown, with black-and-white foretips, mimicking … not the Monarch butterfly directly, but the Monarch through the Viceroy, one of the Monarch's best known imitators (Ada 158): »Nymphalis danaus 


Camouflage (Crypsis)

Imitation of something innocuous and inconspicuous

— a little furry monster … plump … reddish-gray … with sinuate margins, of the leaf-mimicking kind, hanging asleep from a stalk under a bush (Gift 95): »Phyllodesma japonica arborea

— Chinese rhubarb, whose roots bears an extraordinary resemblance to a caterpillar … the caterpillar of an unknown moth, which represented … a copy of that root (Gift 123): »Hepialus armoricanus

— the caterpillar of the quite local Siberian Owlet moth (»Pseudodemas tschumarae) found exclusively on the chumara plant (Tschumara vitimensis). Its outline, its dorsal pattern, and the coloring of its fetlocks make it resemble precisely the downy, yellow, rusty-hued inflorescence of that shrub (Father's Butterflies 222)

— Professor Dawson ... posited that the mimetic niceties of certain Polynesian caterpillars were directed at the Malaysians who had, from time immemorial, been feeding on them! (Father's Butterflies 223): ?

— it is only in Nature's fingers that the leaf could turn into a »Kallima (Father's Butterflies 225)

— This one is an »Angle Wing. It has a curiously formed letter C. It mimics a chink of light through a dead leaf. Isn't that wonderful? Isn't that humorous? (Int1 129, Nabokov's Buttterflies 534)

— an acrobatic caterpillar (of the Lobster Moth) … a writhing larva and… a big ant seemingly harrowing it (Speak, Memory 124): »Stauropus fagi

— the flat larva of a local catocalid [»Catocala] whose gray knobs and lilac placques mimicked the knots and lichens of the twig (Ada 55)

— the marvelous flower that simulated a bright moth that in turn simulated a scarab (Ada 100): ?

— a certain moth resembles a certain wasp (Speak, Memory 125): »Clearwing Moth

— When a butterfly has to look like a leaf, not only are the details of a leaf beautifully rendered but markings mimicking grub-bored holes are thrown in (Speak, Memory 125): »Angle Wing Butterfly



 Deployment of an aposematic color or pattern

the predator has learned to avoid

— the cunning butterfly in the Brazilian forest which imitates the whir of a local bird (Gift 110): »Aellopos titan

— the enormous moth which in a state of repose assumes the image of a snake looking at you (Gift 110): »Attacus atlas

— There is a species of butterfly on the hindwing of which a large eyespot imitates a drop of liquid with such uncanny perfection that a line which crosses the wing is slightly displaced at the exact stretch where it passes through – or better say under – the spot (Lectures on Literature 374): »Brassolini

— imitation of oozing poison by bubblelike macules on the wing (Speak, Memory 24): »Brassolini, »Portschinsky

— a black caterpillar "resembling a diminutive cobra when it puffed out its ocellated front segments" (Speak, Memory 135): »Deilephila elpenor