As if bats weren't scary enough, some are taking tips from hornets.

To scare off predators, some animals display the traits of a deadlier creatures. A scarlet kingsnake, for example, wears a red, black and yellow striped pattern similar to that of a venomous coral snake, and innocuous butterfly species display the same beautiful splashes of color on their wings as their noxious relatives.

These evolutionary adaptations are examples of Batesian mimicry named after the British naturalist Henry Walter Bates - when harmless species evade predators by mimicking more dangerous species that their hungry foes know to avoid.

Most instances of Batesian mimicry are visual. In comparison, there are few examples of mimicry with sound. ''Acoustic mimicry is very rarely documented in nature,'' said Leonardo Ancillotto, an ecologist at the University of Naples Federico II.

DR. Anciillotto and colleagues have discovered not only a new case of acoustic Batesian mimicry, but also the first documented between mammals and insects.

In their work, they report a species of bat that mimics the buzzing sound of stinging insects like hornets to deceive owls that might otherwise eat them.

Bats are well known for using echolocation to maneuver through the air and locate their prey, but they also use various social calls to communicate with one another.

''We know that sound is very important for bats,'' said Glloriana Chaverri, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Costa Rica and author of the study. [Sam Jones]


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