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21 June 2022 Reflex Bleeding in Tonically Immobilized Larvae Causes Debris-Based Camouflage in the Blue Death-Feigning Beetle, Asbolus verrucosus LeConte (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae)
S. Dean Rider Jr., Heather A. Hostetler
Author Affiliations +
Abstract

Darkling beetles are conspicuous and abundant animals, particularly in the arid regions of the world, where they fill an ecological niche as nutrient recyclers. Despite their widespread importance, the immature stages of most darkling beetle species remain uncharacterized. The darkling beetle Asbolus verrucosus LeConte is a popular “show bug” for hobbyists and insectariums where it is colloquially referred to as the “blue death-feigning beetle”. Ecologically, A. verrucosus is one of the most successful Nearctic desert animals and has the longest known lifespan for an adult beetle. The success of this species is not completely understood, and the behavior of immature stages has not been studied. Our husbandry methods allowed us to investigate the development and behavior of A. verrucosus through its complete life cycle. Here we show that maturing larvae of captive-bred A. verrucosus will feign death in response to movement and may reflex bleed during their death-feigning ritual. The released hemolymph acts as an adhesive, partially cloaking the larvae in sand and debris. The resulting crypsis may help the larvae evade desert-dwelling predators that rely on visual cues to recognize and capture prey. While other animals use specialized hairs, podia, mucous, silk or feces to collect debris, this represents the first known example of hemolymph acting as a mechanism to establish debris-based camouflage. Given that this discovery was made within a species-rich family of beetles, it may not be an isolated phenomenon.

S. Dean Rider Jr. and Heather A. Hostetler "Reflex Bleeding in Tonically Immobilized Larvae Causes Debris-Based Camouflage in the Blue Death-Feigning Beetle, Asbolus verrucosus LeConte (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae)," The Coleopterists Bulletin 76(2), 237-247, (21 June 2022). https://doi.org/10.1649/0010-065X-76.2.237
Received: 13 January 2022; Accepted: 25 April 2022; Published: 21 June 2022
KEYWORDS
autohemorrhaging
crypsis
pupa
reflex bleeding
thanatosis
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