Caterpillars Warn Acoustically of Upcoming Defense


Caterpillars of the Great Peacock Moth (Saturnia pyri) are making quite a buzz. A recent study has shown that these giant silkmoth caterpillars are advertising acoustically that they are unpallatable and warn of an upcoming defense strategy.

When disturbed by a would be attacker the caterpillars stridulate by rubbing their mouth parts together, creating broadband chirps spanning from 3.7-55.1 kHz. While it is still unclear who exactly they are advertising to, a predator would be well advised to stay away from their sharp, chemical exuding bristles.

Though is not the first example of sound production in caterpillars it is a novel mechanism, paving the way for future research. (Photo: V. Bura)

Saturnia pyri chirp before or while they ooze foul-smelling droplets from their bristles. So the chirps might be a warning to attackers that there’s some serious resistance on the way, Yack and her colleagues propose online and in an upcoming Naturwissenschaften.


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