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UnDisciplined: how "thinking like a predator" helped a USU ecologist study bumble bee mimicry

Joseph Wilson

At a quick glance, you'd likely have a very hard time distinguishing Bombus vagan, the half black Bumblebee from Laphria flavicollis, a species of Robber fly that is also yellow up top in black in the back. And that's the idea behind mimicry, an evolutionary survival tactic in which multiple species share a similar appearance in order to signal to predators that they should be left alone. But who is mimicking who and do predators actually know – or do they care?

Joseph Wilson is an ecologist at Utah State University who is interested in the drivers of evolutionary diversification in insects.

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Matthew LaPlante has reported on ritual infanticide in Northern Africa, insurgent warfare in the Middle East, the legacy of genocide in Southeast Asia, and gang violence in Central America. But a few years back, something donned on him: Maybe the news doesn't have to be brutally depressing all the time. Today, he balances his continuing work on more heartbreaking subjects by writing books about the intersection of science, human health and society, including the New York Times best-selling <i>Lifespan</i> with geneticist David Sinclair and the Nautilus Award-winning <i>Longevity Plan</i> with cardiologist John Day. His first solo book, <i>Superlative</i>, looks at what scientists are learning by studying organisms that have evolved in record-setting ways, and his is currently at work on another book about embracing the inevitability of human-caused climate change with an optimistic outlook on the future.<br/>