Predator-prey role reversal as bug eats turtle

May 27, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report
Image credit: Shin-ya OHBA

In a recent journal published in Entomological Science, Dr. Shin-ya Ohba shares the unusual behavior and role reversal of a giant water bug becoming the predator and eating a juvenile turtle in a ditch in central Japan. While this Kirkaldyia deyrolli, or giant water bug, from the Lethocerinae family has been seen preying on small vertebrates such as frogs and fish, Ohba has captured images of the bug eating small turtles and snakes.

The K. Deyrolli is a native bug from Japan and is listed by the Japanese Environment Agency as an . They live primarily in the rice fields throughout Japan and feed on small and fish. These bugs can grow up to 15cm long and inflict a venomous bite. They have been known to occasionally bite humans, causing a burning pain that lasts for several hours.

Ohba was conducting a night sampling in the central Japan region of western Hyogo when he recorded images of the giant water bug feeding on a small Reeve’s pond turtle. The insect used its front legs to hold on to the turtle while it inserted its rostrum into the prey in order to feed. While the bugs are known for only attacking moving prey, Ohba assumes that the bug caught and killed the turtle before he stumbled upon it.

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More information: Field observation of predation on a turtle by a giant water bug, Entomological Science, DOI: 10.1111/j.1479-8298.2011.00450.x

The giant water bug, subfamily Lethocerinae, which has the largest body size among Belostomatidae, is known to be a vertebrate specialist that preys upon fish, amphibians and snakes. However, there have been no reports concerning predation on a turtle by Lethocerinae. Here, I report that a male giant water bug Kirkaldyia (Lethocerus) deyrolli (Heteroptera: Belostomatidae) (58.09 mm in total length) was catching hold of a turtle Chinemys reevesii (34.14 mm in carapace length) in a ditch adjoining a paddy rice field. This is a first report of K. deyrolli eating a turtle.

via BBC

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5 / 5 (2) May 27, 2011
I would seriously have to stamp on that thing (probably why they're endangered).
not rated yet May 27, 2011
So the water bug in the pictures is 5.8cm and eating a turtle. I wonder what the 15cm ones eat?
not rated yet May 27, 2011
Holy cow! If I ever see that thing I'm taking a hammer to it!
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2011
mutations from radiation?
not rated yet May 27, 2011
"mutations from radiation?"

LOL......just like poor Blinky: http://blog.times...inky.gif
not rated yet May 28, 2011
I don't know, it could have been scavenging a recently dead turtle, inspite of the fact that they are only KNOWN to attack moving prey. I say this, because that's what was always said about spiders - they detect vibrations in their web, etc. However, a while ago, tried carefully inserting a recently deceased fly into a spider's web (with the spider "at home" and waiting to see what happened. Sure enough, after a few hours, I came back to find the spider eating the fly's body. It is surely possble that this bug also scavenges, if it is hungry enough, anyway.
not rated yet May 28, 2011
The big problem for an insect "indulging" in scavenging is that their eyes are basically motion detectors, so they have difficulty seeig stationary objects. However, a combination of sight and smell might enable it to detect a dead body.
not rated yet May 28, 2011
On the subject of invertebrate scavenging, another observation I made (this time by chance) is of a slug appearing to be eating the body of another slug, that I happened to have killed the previous night. On closer observation, it turned out to be eating the dead slug's stomach contents.
not rated yet May 31, 2011
A bit late, I know, but the most likely explanation for this image is that the turtle had fallen into the ditch and, if it was not already dead, was only able to flap its flippers helplessly. The bug would have seen the movement and spotted the easy meal. Thus, it only put the little thing out of its misery, most likely.

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