The common mime is a butterfly that lives on the island of Sri Lanka, off the coast of India. Consider this interesting life history that required a lot of brilliant planning to originate. We find here five mimic stages in its life:
The golden egg is laid on the tender young shoots of a plant that is a similar color to the eggs.
The young larva, until it is half grown, is colored brown and yellow, with smeary-looking cream-colored marks with a wet-looking gloss. Always sitting on the upper leaves feeding, it looks just like a bird dropping.
During the second half of its larva stage, it is too big for that ruse, so it changes color to a gaudy black, yellow and red. Creatures with that color in Sri Lanka are often dangerous or poisonous.
Then the caterpillar changes into a
pupa. It looks just like a short, snipped-off dead twig. Now it hangs outward from the plant stem. The base of the pupa appears to grow out of the stem it is fastened to, and the upper end looks like a broken‑off twig end.
Emerging as an adult butterfly, it next takes one of two distinct and very different appearances both for males and females.
(5a) One type is brown with mottled yellow, just like the Eupioea butterfly, which is distasteful to birds.
(5b) The other type is striped black and blue like the Danais butterfly, which also has an unpleasant taste.
Normally, both types will fly in the slow, graceful way the butterfly they are imitating flies. When frightened, however, both types reveal their “true colors” and fly like a Mime butterfly.