Ms Heather Penney
|hpenney [at] connect [dot] carleton [dot] ca|
|Telephone||+1 613 520 2600 (ext. 3866)|
|Fax||+1 613 520 3539|
Research InterestsMy Master's research focuses on imperfect mimicry using hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae) which mimic various wasp and bee species. Why wouldn't all hoverfly species evolve to be perfect mimics? While there are many striking examples of perfect mimicry such as Temnostoma or Spiliomyia, there are far more examples of very poor mimicry such as Toxomerus, Allograpta, or Sphaerophoria.
There is a great deal of variability in the mimetic fidelity of these flies and we are attempting to determine variables that contribute to these differences. Previous researchers have stated that variables such as body size and abundance may explain some of the variability in mimetic fidelity, however, all three variables have not been systematically examined together.
Another interesting, but relatively unstudied phenomenon in this mimicry complex is behavioural mimicry. Some hoverflies perform behaviours that may enhance their mimicry, such as waving their front legs in front of their head (which resembles the antennae of their hymenopteran models), wing wag (wag their wings resembling wasp wing wagging) and mock sting. I am attempting to determine the relationship between behavioural mimicry and mimetic fidelity. Is the behaviour additive (adding to an already good morphological mimic) or compensatory (making up for poor morphological mimicry)? I am attempting to find this out by collecting hoverflies with varying mimetic fidelities and assaying them for leg waving, wing wagging and mock stinging behaviours.