Brevia

Web-Spinning Caterpillar Stalks Snails

Science  22 Jul 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5734, pp. 575
DOI: 10.1126/science.1110397

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Abstract

Moths and butterflies compose one of the most diverse insect orders, but they are overwhelmingly herbivorous. Less than 0.2% are specialized predators, indicating that lepidopteran feeding habits are highly constrained. We report a Hawaiian caterpillar that specializes on snails, a unique food source requiring an unusual feeding strategy. The caterpillar uses silk to restrain live prey. All caterpillars have silk glands, but none are known to use silk in this spiderlike fashion. Considering the canalization of caterpillar diets, evolution to attack and feed on snails is an anomaly. Hawaii s isolation and consequently disharmonic biota likely promote evolutionary experiments that occur nowhere else.

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