The Green-Wood

Cemeteries are a source of good history, and good birding.  With this in mind, a walk in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery seemed a good way to spend time on a Sunday.  

The massive stone gateway that stands at the entrance to the cemetery has been colonized by Monk Parakeets, the descendants of escaped domestic specimens.  The screeching of the parakeets deepens a sense of passing from the mundane world and into an otherworldy realm.

Green-Wood is not populated by stone memorials alone.  Plant and animal life abounds within the cemetery.  A combination of mockingbirds, robins, and warblers provided the soundscape to the excursion.  

“It is the ambition of the New Yorker to live upon Fifth Avenue, to take his airings in the [Central] Park, and to sleep with his fathers in Green-Wood.”  - so said the New York Times in 1866.  

Within view of the cemetery, Manhattan appears.  Those sleeping in Green-Wood are never far from the streets where they took their airings.  


Flightless, but Devious

Crypsis is a blanket term for describing the methods organisms employ in hiding from one another -   it's drawn from the greek adjective κρυπτός (kruptos), translating roughly as "hidden" or "secret." These methods include both physical adaptions (such as camouflage) and behavioral ones (such as nocturnality). 

Mimicry is a sort of crypsis. 

Ecologists generally classify mimicry in nature into one of three categories - Batesian mimicry Müllerian mimicry, or Aggressive mimicry. The first category refers to mimicry for the sake of self-preservation. (For example, a butterfly that is not poisonous that has evolved to resemble one that is, thereby eluding predators). The second refers to mimicry for communication. (For example, two poisonous butterflies that have evolved to share defining visual characteristics, communicating their shared status as non-edible more efficiently). The third refers to mimicry as a predation tactic (for example, female fireflies of the genus photuris that imitate the flashing frequencies of the genus photinus and prey on the gullible photinus males attracted to them). 

Female fireflies are flightless, but devious - like people. 

People also engage in mimicry, but by creative means difficult to categorize. 

202145 Bobbing-Head Owl Decoy by IMPROVEMENTS
People create animal decoys modeled on a wide range of organisms for an even wider range of purposes. Rubber worms for hooking fish - plastic deer for target practice. Most mimicry in artificial objects seems to embody a sort of aggressive mimicry. However, it's different from the aggressive mimicry found elsewhere in nature in that the mimicry function is completely externalized from the human organism and into an inanimate object. 

I propose the need for a new system of terminology - for describing mimicry of animate organisms by artificial inanimate objects. 

For the purpose of illustrating this idea, I've done some light research into the varieties and "evolution" of owl decoys used in garden pest control. These strange objects have long been used for discouraging unwanted pests such as rabbits from fields and gardens. For centuries, owl decoy evolution remained in a relative stasis - a painted wooden carving seemed to suffice. However, as garden varmints quickly develop tolerance to these objects, human ingenuity has engaged in a furious arms race of design versus nature. 

SRHO-4 Solar Rotating Head Owl by DALEN / 8021 Garden Defense Electronic Sensor Owl by EASY GARDENER
In the case of these owl decoys, the obvious parallel within the aforementioned categories is Batesian - these harmless objects rely on their similarity to a dangerous organism in performing their function. However, Batesian mimicry is generally associated with prey defending themselves from predators, whereas these decoys are the result of one species (humans) defending an exploitable food source (garden) from competing foragers who might exploit that food source (rabbits, etc.) through the mimicry of a predator of the latter species (owl). 

I haven't been able to find any examples from nature of a living organism that monopolizes a food source in this particular complex way. I'd love to be proven wrong - it's a big world out there. In the meantime, I'll term this variety "externalized Zimmerian mimicry," because my surname is Zimmer, and if Bates and Müller have their names in the game why shouldn't I? 

This certainly isn't the only type of "externalized" mimicry category up for definition. What about decoys designed to attract a prey species? Decoys designed purely for decoration? Decoys designed to provoke aggression in a research subject

Is it possible that humans are the only organisms that externalize mimicry? 

EASY GARDENER promotional graphics