, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 115-118

Mammalian breath: trigger of defensive chemical response in a tenebrionid beetle (Bolitotherus cornutus )

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The tenebrionid beetle Bolitotherus cornutus everts a pair of quinone-producing defensive glands in response to mammalian breath. Experiments with a controlled airstream indicate that the beetle “recognizes” breath on the basis of temperature, humidity, and airflow dynamics. Under attack by mice the beetle everts the glands immediately upon being mouthed and may secure its release as a result. Against ants the beetle is protected by its tough exoskeleton and usually refrains from everting the glands. Other arthropods also show defensive responses when breathed upon.