Chew and spit: tree-feeding notodontid caterpillars anoint girdles with saliva
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- Dussourd, D.E., Peiffer, M. & Felton, G.W. Arthropod-Plant Interactions (2016) 10: 143. doi:10.1007/s11829-016-9416-1
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Caterpillars of the notodontid Oedemasia leptinoides (formerly Schizura) use their mandibles to cut shallow girdles that encircle the petioles and stems of tree hosts. When girdles are complete, the larvae bathe the girdle surface with fluid. We test whether the fluid originates from the labial salivary glands or ventral eversible gland by blocking the openings to the glands and observing whether fluid is still released onto the girdles. Only larvae with functional labial salivary glands anointed girdles with fluid. Analysis of girdle rinses for a prominent salivary enzyme, glucose oxidase, confirmed that larvae apply saliva and documented that application occurs primarily at the end of girdling. We propose that girdling by notodontids, together with related furrowing and leaf-clipping behaviors exhibited by diverse caterpillar groups, serve at least in part to introduce salivary components to exposed vascular tissues; these compounds presumably function to suppress plant defensive responses normally elicited by caterpillar feeding.