The Loh Down On Science

Is this the greatest gift a mother can give?

Is the latest Internet sensation . . . a leaf beetle?
 
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying yes! 

Leaf beetles are a family of insects that eat plant leaves.  There’s forty thousand kinds!  But that’s not why photos of a leaf-beetle larva recently went viral online.  That was because, apparently, parasites that look like squiggles were living inside a clear sack on its back!  Ew!

But bug experts soon set things straight:  Only one squiggle was a parasite.  The rest?  Get this:  Dried beetle poop!

In her book chapter on leaf beetles, entomologist Caroline Chaboo of the University of Kansas explains:

Turns out certain leaf beetle mothers are very protective.  Mom safeguards her eggs by encasing each in a soft sack. She then fills it with:  her own poop!

When the larvae hatch, they flip the poop sack onto their backs, where it dries and forms a giant shield.  So predators who like to inject their own eggs into the larvae can't always broach a backpack filled with hard feces and motherly love!

Hey, when it comes to leaf beetles, a mom’s gotta poo what a mom’s gotta poo!  Sorry.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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