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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