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Relative defensive behavior of some moths and the implications to predator prey interactions

Relative defensive behavior of some moths and the implications to predator prey interactions

Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 33(1): 103-111

Certain cryptic, palatable moths in the families Noctuidae, Notodontidae, Pyralidae and Sphingidae exhibited responses of apparently protective value 78-100% of the time when touched on the dorsal wing surface. No interaction between the shape of the tactile stimulus and the elicited responses was found. Frequency of response to ventral wing touch was less than 40% with the 2 noctuid species tested in this manner. Aposematic, distasteful moths in the families Arctiidae, Ctenuchidae and Yponomeutidae exhibited behaviors of potentially defensive value 10-52% of the time when touched on the dorsal wing surface. The unpalatable moths had higher thresholds for release of protective behavior. Members of both groups exhibited angled flights, straight flights, dropping with catalepsis (i.e., playing-dead), and no visible response, but with the frequencies of these responses significantly different. Only certain unpalatable species produced a display without flight or dropping after the tactile stimulus. Flight durations and types were very variable. The mode of the flight durations elicited in palatable moths was 0.8 s but 0 s in unpalatable moths. Then the palatability of each moth species was determined using local wild-caught and hand-reared birds. Common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula (L.)] seemed more likely to accept moths unpalatable to other birds. There may be broad correlations between taxonomic groupings and the total defensive ensemble present in a moth. However, convergent strategies between phylogenetically unrelated moth species were observed.

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