Nimble caterpillars mimic each other to escape from predators


30/12/2011

Scientists have long been discovered and proven that the example of insect mimicry adult butterflies, but new research shows that caterpillars also use this defense mechanism to hide from predators.

Escaping from hungry predators, caterpillars have developed a sufficient set of tricks. For example, some caterpillars can take the form of bird droppings or twigs of plants, while the other track structure provides for bumps on the body that resemble eyes that scare away the birds. There are insects that escape from enemies, generated using their special chemical substance, like some poisonous plants, this predator says their bright coloration.

Although until now has been known about the cases of mimicry - cases of resemblance between animals of different species - among adults of many species of butterflies, scientists have now discovered a few specific cases, the use of this strategy and caterpillars. "Mimicry is one of the best examples of natural selection in nature, which has been studied for many years, and it can help us learn more about the evolutionary adaptations of animals" - said Keith Willmott, a biologist from the State of Florida.

In a new analysis of Wilmot and his colleagues focused their attention on two groups of caterpillars: Danaini, living on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola and Ithomiini, living in the eastern part of Ecuador. In continental areas of the United States, the larvae Danaus plexippus (Monarch butterfly) and Danaus gilippus (Royal Butterfly) have similar white, black and yellow stripes on the body. In the Dominican Republic, however, the same kind of caterpillar has a much more broad black stripes, giving them a clear, dark color.

The researchers found that this pattern of staining is present in several other types of toxic caterpillars Danaini endemic to the island of Hispaniola, suggesting that D. plexippus and gilippus D. adopted this sign of endemic species, when they moved into this area.

Researchers have thus proved the existence of mimicry among caterpillars, but they noted that it is a rare phenomenon among larvae than among butterflies as bright coloration is more expensive caterpillars. In contrast to the highly mobile adult butterflies, caterpillars are not always easy to evade predators they attract with their bright colors.

The study was published in the current issue of the journal Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

Original: LiveScience


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