Fat, thin caterpillars are studied

Sep 21, 2006

A U.S.-led international team of scientists says there's no obesity epidemic among insects and the researchers believe they now know why.

Spencer Behmer, an entomologist with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, and colleagues conducted a series of experiments to determine whether caterpillars could adapt to extreme changes in their nutritional environment.

By manipulating the nutritional environment of diamondback moth caterpillars, the researchers found the insects evolved different physiological mechanisms related to fat metabolism. Which mechanism was used depended on whether the caterpillars were given carbohydrate-rich or carbohydrate-poor food.

The scientists theorize caterpillars -- and animals in general -- can evolve metabolically to adjust to extreme nutritional environments.

When the caterpillars were reared in carbohydrate-rich environments for multiple generations, they developed the ability to eat excess carbohydrate without adding fat to their bodies, Behmer said. On the other hand, those reared in carbohydrate-poor environments showed an ability to store ingested carbohydrates as fat.

The research was detailed recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Secret life of cells revealed with new technique

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Five edible insects you really should try

Sep 04, 2013

Edible insects are great alternatives to conventional sources of meat as they're cheap, plentiful and excellent sources of protein and fat, as well as vitamins and minerals.

Recommended for you

Citizen scientists match research tool when counting sharks

10 hours ago

Shark data collected by citizen scientists may be as reliable as data collected using automated tools, according to results published April 23, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Gabriel Vianna from The University of Wes ...

User comments : 0

More news stories