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`Tobacco eating` Hornworm caterpillar puffs nicotine to ward off predators

ANI | Last Updated: Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - 16:17

Washington: Researchers have found a caterpillar that has a unique defence mechanism against some of their predators such as wolf spiders.

They discovered that a gene in hornworm caterpillars allowed them to puff nicotine out through their spiracles (tiny holes in their sides), from the tobacco that they ate, Fox News reported.
Study researcher Ian Baldwin, a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany said that it was basically an insect eating a plant and then co-opting the plant for its own defense.

The researchers discovered the odd "defensive halitosis" while they were trying to find out how hornworm caterpillars could eat tobacco plants and survive despite the toxicity of nicotine within the tissues of plants.

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

First Published: Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - 16:17
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