Perception & Predation

Leonie Zang

I decided to use the narrative theme of aggressive mimicry in my work during ART 351. Mimicry is a form of evolutionary biology wherein an organism’s features resemble a favored singled by another. Typically mimicry is used as an anti- predator adaptation, however aggressive mimicry is when the predator employs similar tactics to avoid detection or attract their prey.  The most famous example of aggressive mimicry is the deep sea anglerfish, which uses their dorsal spine as a bioluminescent fishing lure to attract prey in the dark depths of the ocean.

  • SIGHT           Spiders use aggressive mimicry commonly. Argiope argentata use a special type of silk to make zigzag patterns in their webs. These patterns reflect ultraviolet light and mimic the nectar guides of flowers which pollinators such as bees use like lights on an airport tarmac. However bees are able to remember patterns with spatial location in order to find the best flowers. Due to this the spider must spin a new pattern daily or else the bees will catch wise. I have produced a representation .gif of what a bee would possibly see viewing the web in ultraviolet light.ART351_Sight


  • SOUND           Another form of luring which is still being studied is the use of auditory lures. There is evidence that the northern shrike, a carnivorous songbird, mimics the songs of smaller birds to lure them within striking distance. Another species which uses a similar tactic is the margay, a South American wild cat similar to an ocelot. Margay’s mimic the cries of infant pied tamarins to lure concerned adults closer. To represent this I played this supplied audio on a Bluetooth speaker hidden in a locker at the Visual Art building. I played this track during class:


  • TASTE           Taste relates to consumption, typically to identify if something is edible or not. In relation to that I made a work which is about size-selection predation, a behavior where predators select prey depending on their size. If a prey item is too large it would be a hassle and bring possible injury, while small prey would have little gain. This is why there is a size correlation between predator and prey, that’s why adult elephants are safe from predation. This work is a table set up with a gradient of food sources, each item representing a single prey item for the viewer. Some food like the crumbs or the chocolate are to small to sustain a human viewer, while the loaf of bread is too much for a single sitting.DSC_0101.png


  • TOUCH           While it is uncertain what strategy predators use to select a single prey item from a herd the solution is always to focus on the weakest or slowest prey to pursue. The strongest human equivalent to this was the behavior of touching meat to identify if it is cooked to a desirable doneness. Here four plates of the same cut of meat, each cooked for different lengths of time: blue, rare, medium and well done. In order to test this I had my roommate collaborate with me and touch each piece of meat to see if he could guess their doneness. He correctly guessed each one and then ate them all for me.


  • SMELL           For the smell assignment I came up with this thought experiment to test how comparable human greed is with predation. This is a diagram explaining a briefcase filled with some monetary gain such as fake money. There is a motion sensor attached to a hose which sprays a nontoxic but fowl smelling chemical at whomever goes to take some money. Typically in nature a predator is discouraged from a prey item which sprays foul smells but how many people would ignore the smell for something less useful for survival like money.