The evolution of mimicry of friarbirds by orioles (Aves: Passeriformes) in Australo-Pacific archipelagos

Observations by Alfred Wallace and Jared Diamond of plumage similarities between co-occurring orioles (Oriolus) and friarbirds (Philemon) in the Malay archipelago led them to conclude that the former represent visual mimics of the latter. Here, we use molecular phylogenies and plumage reflectance measurements to test several key predictions of the mimicry hypothesis. We show that friarbirds originated before brown orioles, that the two groups did not co-speciate, although there is one plausible instance of co-speciation among species on the neighbouring Moluccan islands of Buru and Seram. Furthermore, we show that greater size disparity between model and mimic and a longer history of co-occurrence have resulted in a stronger plumage similarity (mimicry). This suggests that resemblance between orioles and friarbirds represents mimicry and that colonization of islands by brown orioles has been facilitated by their ability to mimic the aggressive friarbirds.