Shake a Leg

Squash bugs

Squash bugs, Anasa tristis

Insects face many predators in the environment.  Often a predator will grasp insect prey by a limb. Ants can grasp a leg to immobilize an insect until its nest mates can swarm the insect and kill it.  One means of escape is to autotomize (detach) the stuck limb.

A group of scientists* studied the ability of 9 species of Coreid bugs to autotomize limbs. They grasped a limb of a bug with forceps and held the limb for 1 h. The only way for the bugs to escape was to detach the limb. All of the 9 species tested escaped by autotomizing the leg. The bugs studied exhibited a stereotypic behavior of raising the abdomen and dropping it rapidly to apply sufficient shear force to the joint of the stuck leg to separate the joint. The separation always occurred between the trochanter and femur.

*Zachary Emberts, Colette M. St. Mary and Christine W. Miller. Coreidae (Insecta: Hemiptera) Limb Loss and Autotomy. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 2016, 1–6
doi: 10.1093/aesa/saw037

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Shake a Leg

  1. Pingback: Shake a Leg – Entomo Planet

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