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Tortoise Beetle Larvae Making Fecal Shields

8-1-14  tortoise beetle larva with fecal shield 049Instead of discarding feces, or frass, some insects save their waste matter for defensive purposes such as “fecal shields.” These are coverings over the back of the larvae that are made largely of feces and provide either physical or chemical barriers to predation. Adult Tortoise Beetles have a type of shield (hence, their name), but it is formed from expanded, hardened forewings, and is not a fecal shield. The larvae of these beetles have fecal shields which serve as chemical deterrents, preventing most predators from even touching them. The deterrent in the feces comes from the beetles’ food source — plants in the order Solanales. Tortoise Beetle larvae have what is known as a “fecal fork” on their last abdominal segment, which they hold over their body. The larvae maneuvers its muscular, telescopic anus, or “anal turret” in such a manner as to excrete its feces and bits of shed exoskeleton onto the fecal fork, forming an umbrella-like fecal shield.

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13 responses

  1. Louise Garfield


    August 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm

  2. Ellen Baucom


    Sent from the Baucom’s


    August 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm

  3. How wonderfully ingenious it that!

    August 1, 2014 at 1:21 pm

  4. sassy55

    i tried to guess what today’s post might be about. somehow anal turrets didn’t come to mind. i love it.

    August 1, 2014 at 1:57 pm

  5. See, this is why I love nature (and your blog, Mary). Little did I know when I logged on this morning that “fecal shield,” “fecal fork,” and “anal turret” would be added to my lexicon. Marvelous!

    August 1, 2014 at 3:58 pm

  6. I always aim to please, Kellyann 🙂

    August 1, 2014 at 4:12 pm

  7. Marilyn

    Nature certainly is…uh…fascinating!

    August 1, 2014 at 4:24 pm

  8. Fascinating post, and what an interesting defense—Nature is fantastic! Thanks, Mary! 🙂

    August 1, 2014 at 8:22 pm

  9. My first exposure to this type of adaptation was the non-native lily beetle. It makes eradication a nasty process!

    August 1, 2014 at 8:37 pm

  10. Beverly Wilkins

    Please add me to your email list for your regular messages. I just saw this site at my friend, Bev’s house and I love it. My email is: Thank you very much, Linda

    On 8/1/14, Naturally Curious with Mary Holland

    August 1, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    • Linda, I tried emailing you, but it was sent back to me. WordPress does all of the subscription so you need to go to my blog and click on “Sign Me Up!” Hopefully your friend Bev will see this and let you know about it! Thank you for your interest in my blog! Mary

      August 2, 2014 at 1:39 am

  11. Gaylee Amend

    some amazing adaptation!

    February 21, 2015 at 7:06 pm

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