- Eyespot (mimicry)
An eyespot (sometimes ocellus) is an eye-like marking. They are found on butterflies, reptiles and birds. In members of the
Felidaefamily (such as the Leopard Catand leopard), ocelli are white circular markings on the backs of the ears.
Eyespots may be a form of
automimicryin which a spot on the body of an animal resembles an eye of a different animal to deceive potential predator or prey species, or to draw a predator's attention away from the most vulnerable body parts. Alternatively, a marking resembling an eye in butterflies and moths and certain other insects as well as the sunbittern, a bird; it is thought that such spots do not serve a mimicry function. In some cases, these spots may play a role in intraspecies communication or reproduction; in others, however, the evolutionary function of the spots is not understood.
In many species, such markings provide protection by appearing threatening or by diverting attention away from vital body parts (
automimicry); see Stevens (2005) for a review. The white spots on the back of Felidae ears serve a social function by communicating the animal's mental state (excited, calm, aggressive, etc.) to conspecifics in the gloom of dense forest or in tall grass.
* (2005): The role of eyespots as anti-predator mechanisms, principally demonstrated in the Lepidoptera. "Biol. Rev." 80(4): 573–588. doi|10.1017/S1464793105006810 (HTML abstract)
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