Müllerian mimicry is the mutualistic resemblance between two defended species, while Batesian mimicry is the parasitic resemblance between a palatable species (the mimic) and an unpalatable one (the model). These two kinds of mimicry are traditionally seen as extreme ends of a mimicry spectrum. For the range in between, it has been suggested that mimetic relations between unequally defended species could be parasitic, and this phenomenon has been referred to as quasi-Batesian mimicry. Where a mimetic relation is placed along the mimicry spectrum depends on the assumptions made about predator learning. We used a variant of the Rescorla–Wagner learning model for virtual predators to analyse the different possible components of the mimicry spectrum. Our model entails that the rate of associative learning is influenced by variation in the stimuli to be learned. Variable stimuli, that is, unequal defences, can increase the predator learning rate and thus lead to an increased level of mutualism in a mimetic relation. In our analysis, we made use of the concepts of super-Müllerian mimicry, where the benefit of mimicry is even greater than in traditional Müllerian mimicry, and quasi-Müllerian mimicry, where mimicry by a palatable mimic is mutualistic. We suggest that these types of mimicry should be included in the mimicry spectrum along with Müllerian, Batesian and quasi-Batesian mimicry.
Keywords: associative learning; mutualism; Müllerian mimicry; quasi-Batesian mimicry; Rescorla–Wagner model