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Sunbathing keeps north American bugs healthy: Study

Last Updated: Saturday, August 25, 2012 - 18:50

Toronto: Canadian scientists have discovered how a group of insects use sunbathing to fight off germs.

A study done by researchers at Simon Fraser University, Canada has found that a group of North American insects called Western Boxelder bugs (WBB) group together in sunlit patches and while there, release monoterpenes, strong-smelling chemical compounds that help protect the bugs by killing germs on their bodies.

The study found that the compounds were emitted when the bugs were in sunshine ? in effect, sunbathing and weren`t used for communication, reproduction or defending the bugs against predators.

According to the researchers, sunlight appears to activate the biosynthesis of the compounds in the bugs, described as highly gregarious creatures. The chemicals then physically encase fungal spores on the bugs` body surface and set off a chain of events that ultimately protect them from germ penetration.

"Prophylactic sunbathing defends these bugs against pathogens that they encounter in their shelters," co-author of the study Gerhard Gries said.

"If they are converting the sun`s solar energy to fuel chemical work, without the aid of microbial symbionts - organisms that live together with a host, often to their mutual benefit - we would consider this a highly remarkable feat in the animal world," Gries added.

The findings were published in the journal Entomologia Experimentalis it Applicata.


First Published: Saturday, August 25, 2012 - 18:50
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