An unprecedented role reversal: Ground beetle larvae lure amphibians and prey upon them

Sep 21, 2011

Usually it's the frog that catches the unsuspecting bug for a tasty snack, but in an unprecedented predator-prey role reversal, a certain group of ground beetle larvae are able to lure their amphibious would-be predators and consume them with almost 100% success. In a report published today in the online journal PLoS ONE, researchers begin to describe how these larvae are able to pull off this feat.

According to the researchers, larvae of the genus Epomis combine a sit-and-wait strategy with unique movements of their antennae and mouthparts to draw the attention of an amphibian (frogs and toads were used in the study). As the amphibian, thinking it has spotted potential prey, comes closer, the larva increases the intensity of these enticing motions. Then, when the amphibian attacks, the larva almost always manages to avoid the predator's tongue and uses its unique double-hooked mouthparts to attach itself to the amphibian's body and initiate feeding, which can include both sucking of bodily fluids and chewing body tissues, usually killing the much larger amphibian.

"Interestingly, adult beetles and larvae of species related to Epomis, are commonly preyed upon by amphibians," says the senior author Gil Wizen. "It seems that instead of serving as food items for amphibians, Epomis have evolved to specifically take advantage of amphibians as a ."

These findings extend the perspective of co-evolution in the arms race between predator and prey and suggest that counterattack defense behavior has evolved into predator-prey role reversal. However, the mechanism of the larva's swift counterattack against the speedy amphibian is still unknown.

Explore further: Giant jellyfish pops up in the north-west

More information: Wizen G, Gasith A (2011) An Unprecedented Role Reversal: Ground Beetle Larvae (Coleoptera: Carabidae) Lure Amphibians and Prey upon Them. PLoS ONE 6(9): e25161. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025161

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Dogs can be pessimists too

2 hours ago

Dogs generally seem to be cheerful, happy-go-lucky characters, so you might expect that most would have an optimistic outlook on life.

Transparent larvae hide opaque eyes behind reflections

15 hours ago

Becoming invisible is probably the ultimate form of camouflage: you don't just blend in, the background shows through you. And this strategy is not as uncommon as you might think. Kathryn Feller, from the University of Maryland ...

Peacock's train is not such a drag

16 hours ago

The magnificent plumage of the peacock may not be quite the sacrifice to love that it appears to be, University of Leeds researchers have discovered.

User comments : 0