A New Study Investigates Why Some Moths Are More Relaxed Fliers in The Face of Bat Attacks
The new study from Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution investigates why some moths are more relaxed fliers within the face of bat attacks. The analysis reveals that much less appetizing moths are extra nonchalant when attacked by bats, whereas extra palatable moths are likely to employ evasive maneuvers.
The work reveals the complex risks and rewards of anti-predator methods where mistakes invariably imply death and will let scientists predict the evasive behaviors of rare and even extinct species.
Many prey animals have developed defense mechanisms to evade and deter potential predators. In moths, these include chemical defenses that make them much less appetizing, ultrasonic hearing to listen to bats coming and mid-flight evasive maneuvers—such as swoops and dives—that help them to escape.
Nonetheless, researchers understand relatively little about how these factors are linked and the way they vary between totally different species. Dr. Nicolas Dowdy of the Milwaukee Public Museum and Wake Forest University within the US noticed unusual behavior in sure species of tiger moths, which appeared to be relatively relaxed when attacked by predatory bats.
Intrigued by this behavior, Dowdy and his colleagues set out to determine the factors that contribute to this apparent nonchalance. They hypothesized that nonchalant moths had developed chemical defenses that made them unpalatable, which means they’ve much less motivation to evade bats than their more delicious moth counterparts. An exciting extension of this work could also be reconstructing behaviors of rare and even extinct species.
At the very least, there is a silver lining for disgusting moths: being repulsive means that it would be able to rest a little bit easier within the face of danger.