Prey-rolling behavior of coatis (Nasua spp.) is elicited by benzoquinones from millipedes
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- Weldon, P.J., Cranmore, C.F. & Chatfield, J.A. Naturwissenschaften (2006) 93: 14. doi:10.1007/s00114-005-0064-z
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Coatis (Nasua spp.), gregarious, omnivorous carnivores that range in forests from the southwestern USA to south America, dispatch millipedes by rolling them on the ground using rapid, alternating movements of their forepaws. Prey rolling of millipedes is thought to stimulate the depletion of their defensive secretions and to wipe off secretions before millipedes are consumed. We report that prey-rolling behavior in Nasua spp. is elicited by 1,4-benzoquinone; 2-methyl-1,4-benzoquinone; and 2-methoxy-3-methyl-1,4-benzoquinone, the chief components of the defensive secretions of julidan, spirobolidan, and spirostreptidan millipedes. Chemicals elaborated for defense sometimes evolutionarily “backfire,” providing cues to predators on the presence or identity of prey. The elicitation of prey-rolling behavior in Nasua spp. by benzoquinones illustrates this effect for millipedes (and possibly other arthropods) that defensively discharge these compounds.