A Very Crafty Caterpillar
Caterpillars of the Great Peacock Moth (Saturnia pyri) are generating quite a buzz lately. 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.
(more pics after jump)
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.
A close-up of a great peacock moth’s clumps of spikes shows the strong-smelling droplets they release when under attack. The little bumps that support the spikes start yellow and change colors as the caterpillar grows.