Image courtesy of Caroline Chaboo, in Chemical Biology of the Tropics, 2011.
A larva with a wet fecal coat on its back, South Africa.
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.
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