Caterpillar’s Bad Breath Scares Off Predators

The key to the hornworm’s (Manduca sexta) bad breath is nicotine, a toxin it ingests while eating its favorite meal of tobacco leaves. New experiments show that the hornworm repurposes the nicotine, moving it from the gut to the hemolymph, the fluid that fills its circulatory system. The hornworm then excretes this excess nicotine when it exhales.

Tobacco Hornworm

Wolf spiders and other predators that eat the hornworm don’t have its defenses against nicotine and find the breath repulsive—and potentially poisonous! Learn more here or here.

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