, Volume 93, Issue 1, pp 14–16 | Cite as

Prey-rolling behavior of coatis (Nasua spp.) is elicited by benzoquinones from millipedes

  • Paul J. Weldon
  • Catherine F. Cranmore
  • Jenifer A. Chatfield
Short Communication


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.


Benzoquinones Defensive Secretion Defensive Chemical Tenebrionid Beetle Striped Skunk 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



B. Harrod, W. Piechocki, J. Roth, and J. Zolonowski (Vanishing Species Wildlife, Davie, FL, USA) permitted access to animals in their care. D. Barker and E. Timaeus (Vida Preciosa International, Boerne, TX, USA) supplied millipedes. J.E. Oliver and A. Weatherwax (USDA, Beltsville, MD, USA) provided synthetic chemicals. A. Hutchinson and D.T. Steere Jr. (Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Washington, DC, USA) provided valuable library services. J. Greff (Tonal Vision LLC, Baltimore, MD, USA) prepared the figure. P. Burchfield, S. Evans, and M. Tebraue extended courtesies in the course of our study. S. Evans, R. Hoffman, S. Krane, and T. Spande commented on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul J. Weldon
    • 1
  • Catherine F. Cranmore
    • 2
  • Jenifer A. Chatfield
    • 3
  1. 1.Conservation and Research CenterSmithsonian InstitutionFront RoyalUSA
  2. 2.Tri-Lakes Veterinary Clinic and ExoticsMount PleasantUSA
  3. 3.Gladys Porter ZooBrownsvilleUSA

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