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Singing Bug Of The Day


Speaking of insects, there was a fun study mentioned in last month's New Scientist on the Maculinea rebeli caterpillar, which has long possessed a rather nifty trick. For most of its childhood, the caterpillar feeds on leaves like everyone else, but, prior to metamorphosis, it drops to the forest floor and somehow tricks nearby red ants into treating the larva as a queen. So the worker ants hoist the larva on their shoulders, march it into their colony, and offer it all the food it cares to eat. Until now, no one knew exactly how the caterpillar pulled off this sneaky charade. But, according to a recent Science study, researchers have found that the larva basically belts out a cover of a song normally sung by the queen—same frequency, same notes—which appears to fool the worker ants. (I hear they also do a mean karaoke version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart.")

--Bradford Plumer