Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 20, Issue 8, pp 2127–2138

Attacus atlas caterpillars (Lep., Saturniidae) spray an irritant secretion from defensive glands

  • Reinhold Deml
  • Konrad Dettner

DOI: 10.1007/BF02066249

Cite this article as:
Deml, R. & Dettner, K. J Chem Ecol (1994) 20: 2127. doi:10.1007/BF02066249


The ability ofAttacus atlas caterpillars to spray a defensive secretion seems to be due to the fine structure of the integumental glands that produce it. The giant gland cells are fixed to stable cuticular rings surrounding the gland openings and tightly closed by cuticular lids. Probably by increasing hemolymph pressure, the lids are blasted off and the secretion spouts out. The fluid contains several aromatics, biogenic amines (e.g., acetylcholine, histamine), glycerol, and trehalose and exhibits tyrosinase activity. Deterrent effects of caterpillar secretion and hemolymph on predatory ants could be shown. Presumably the spraying process serves to apply the secretion to sensitive sites of vertebrate target organisms.

Key Words

Attacus atlas biogenic amines chemical defense defensive glands of caterpillars histamine Lepidoptera Saturniidae 

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reinhold Deml
    • 1
  • Konrad Dettner
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Animal Ecology IIUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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