Sluggish Movement and Repugnant Odor Are Positively Interacting Insect Defensive Traits in Encounters with Frogs

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Sluggish movement is common in chemically defended insects. We have recently shown that sluggish movement can be beneficial to prey when it fails to release the attack response of an ambush (=motion-oriented) predator. Here, we test the hypothesis that sluggish movement and chemical defense (i.e., repugnant odor) together are more defensive than either alone. We manipulated the movement and odor of lubber grasshoppers to produce four prey types: (1) sluggish-moving and high odor, (2) sluggish-moving and low odor, (3) fast-moving and high odor, and (4) fast-moving and low odor. We then offered these prey to frogs. In two independent experiments, frogs attacked prey type 1 (i.e., sluggish-moving and high-odor prey) significantly later than they attacked the other prey types. Hence, the defenses of sluggish movement and repugnant odor can act together to produce a prey that is better defended than prey with either defense alone. This may help explain why these two traits commonly cooccur in insects.

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