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Defensive spray by a semiaquatic osmylid larva (Insecta: Neuroptera) for both aquatic and terrestrial predators

Abstract

Chemical secretions are an effective means by which insects can deter potential enemies. Several terrestrial insects spray these liquids directionally toward enemies, but little is known about spraying behavior in aquatic and semiaquatic insects. The larvae of Osmylus hyalinatus (Neuroptera: Osmylidae) are semiaquatic, inhabiting the edges of small streams and ponds where they encounter multiple enemies on land and in water. The larvae of this osmylid sprayed a hyaline liquid from the anal opening if disturbed in either air and water, although the spray appeared slightly viscous in water. The liquid was stored in the posterior half of the hindgut and sprayed directionally toward an artificial stimulus. Spraying allowed the larvae to escape biting by ants, and to repel them in 90% of encounters. Spraying caused the regurgitation of 71% and 60% of all larvae swallowed by terrestrial frogs and aquatic newts, respectively. Aquatic fishfly larvae released 30% of captured larvae due to spraying. Most of the larvae that repelled ants or were regurgitated by amphibians survived, but those released by fishfly larvae were killed by heavy biting with the mandibles. This is the first report of effective liquid spraying by insects in water, and also within the order Neuroptera.

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Authors make all the data available to readers upon request.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Yasukazu Okada for offering the mass-cultured beetle larvae of Gnatocerus cornutus as food of froglets and the worker ants of Formica japonica as the model predator from his cultured colonies.

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TI found the spraying behavior and all authors contributed to completion of this study; particularly PY and FH reviewed the spraying behavior of terrestrial and aquatic animals, TI and FH performed experiments and analyses, and FH wrote the manuscript which was finally checked by all authors.

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Correspondence to Fumio Hayashi.

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All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Iwanami, T., Yu, P. & Hayashi, F. Defensive spray by a semiaquatic osmylid larva (Insecta: Neuroptera) for both aquatic and terrestrial predators. J Ethol 39, 369–377 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10164-021-00714-1

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Keywords

  • Amphibian predators
  • Ant avoidance
  • Chemical defense
  • Osmylidae
  • Spraying behavior