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Mimicry in Australian velvet ants

The CSIRO Australian National Insect Collection invites you to take part in an online game to study mimicry in Australian velvet ants.

With the use of citizen science, we aim to investigate the patterns that result from the evolution of Müllerian mimicry in velvet ants. In Müllerian mimicry, equally defended species share a colouration pattern to warn off predators. Because velvet ants, which are actually wingless wasps, can inflict a very painful sting, they are a great system to study this natural phenomenon. This study will help expand our breadth of knowledge on the occurrence of mimicry complexes in nature and will provide insights into the evolution of mimicry in these charismatic insects.

In this mimicry game, as a human, we want you to take on the role of a predator, such as a bird predator ready to eat some insects. From the perspective of a predator what challenges as a predator would you face in deciding whether or not to feed on an insect? Some very interesting discoveries have been made by studying mimicry and we hope you’ll enjoy this activity to help scientists discover more about mimicry in insects.

What will I be asked to do?

You will be shown screens with images of velvet ants and asked how much they resemble each other on a scale from 0-10. The experiment will continue randomly presenting images for as long as you would like to play (there is no end point). Your participation is completely voluntary and you are free to withdraw by stopping at any time.

How will the results of the study be used?

All information collected through the game will be anonymous and used by CSIRO for research purposes only. Data will be reported in an aggregate form to ensure participants are not individually identifiable. The data may also be kept and used by CSIRO in a de-identified form for future research on this topic. Results from this study will be published in scientific papers, public reports and conference presentations. A summary of the findings will also be made available to participants on completion of the study. Please email NRCADigital@csiro.au if you would like to receive a copy of this summary report.

What if I have any questions about this study?

If you’d like to let us know what you think about this mimicry game or if you have any thoughts about mimicry in general, please feel free to contact us at NRCADigital@csiro.au.

This study has been approved by CSIRO’s Social Science Human Research Ethics Committee in accordance with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007). Any concerns or complaints about the conduct of this study can be raised with the Manager of Social Responsibility and Ethics on (07) 3833 5693 or by email at csshrec@csiro.au.

If you consent to take part in this survey, please click the ‘START’ button below to begin.