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No. 3: April 1978

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Predaceous insect larvae don " sheep's clothing"

The larva of the green lacewing lives in colonies of the wooly alder aphid upon which it feeds. The aphids, however, are protected by "shepherd" ants which normally remove any undisguised predatory larva. To foil the ants, the larva plucks some of the waxy wool from nearby aphids and sticks it on its own back. Thus disguised, the larva continues to consume aphids without the ants being the wiser. (The aphids know of course.) Artificially denuded larva are immediately spotted by ants and ejected from the colony. Cases are known where animals protect themselves from predators by covering themselves with vegetable matter and other debris, but the lacewing larva is unusual in that it mimics its prey by stealing the prey's own clothing.

(Eisner, Thomas, et al; "Wolf-in-Sheep'sClothing Strategy of a Predaceous Insect Larva," Science, 199:790, 1978.)

Comment. Does evolution satisfactorily explain the existence of such a trait as this?

From Science Frontiers #3, April 1978. 1978-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987