Mimicry, in which two unrelated species converge upon a novel phenotype for the purpose of signaling to predators, is a classic system for understanding the mechanisms driving transitions to strikingly new and distinct character states. My research on trait evolution has leveraged the phenomenon of Batesian mimicry of highly venomous coral snakes (family Elapidae) across the New World to test hypotheses about “evolutionary trajectories” in nature. I combine large-scale digitization of vertebrate museum records, novel phylogenetic comparative approaches, modeling, and population genetics to provide a comprehensive test of snake mimicry across both space and time. I present surprising results that challenge traditional ideas about the ecological origins and evolutionary stability of mimicry systems and identify exciting new targets for future research into the drivers of phenotypic convergence across systems.
Art by John Megahan.