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1 June 2018 Chewing Holes for Camouflage
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Abstract
Camouflaged objects are harder to detect if the background itself is more heterogeneous, and search becomes increasingly inefficient when the scene contains multiple items resembling the target. Some adult leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) with highly specialized habits make holes on host plant leaves while feeding. We propose that leaf beetles camouflage themselves with their feeding holes. The presence of holes makes predators' visual search harder, thus giving beetles more time to escape from the leaf surface either by jumping (Galerucinae: Alticini) or rolling (rest of Chrysomelidae). Based on behavioral observations and analysis of 25 photographs of feeding leaf beetles (15 species), we demonstrate that adult leaf beetles camouflage themselves by creating holes of uniform size, approximately half of the beetle body size. Observation of the feeding behavior and anatomy of a typical hole-feeding beetle (Altica cirsicola) showed that the foregut volume and head-prothorax mobility of beetles are the two major factors that constrain the hole size. A computer-simulated visual search test showed that the greater the number of holes, and the more each hole approached beetle body size, the longer it took humans (as models) to locate a beetle on a leaf. This study reports a newly discovered kind of camouflage, hole-feeding camouflage, in leaf beetles, which makes visual detection or recognition more difficult by changing the environmental background. This type of camouflage may open up a range of new possibilities for studies in animal cognition analysis and evolution of anti-predation defenses.
© 2018 Zoological Society of Japan
Jing Ren, Natasha de Gunten, Alexander S. Konstantinov, Fredric V. Vencl, Siqin Ge and David L. Hu "Chewing Holes for Camouflage," Zoological Science 35(3), (1 June 2018). https://doi.org/10.2108/zs170136
Received: 7 August 2017; Accepted: 30 December 2017; Published: 1 June 2018
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