Crickets 'Forewarn' Unborn Babies About Spiders

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Crickets 'Forewarn' Unborn Babies About Spiders

 

ScienceDaily (Feb. 17, 2010)

Just because cricket moms abandon their eggs before they hatch doesn't mean they don't pass wisdom along to their babies. New research in the American Naturalist shows that crickets can warn their unborn babies about potential predator threats.

Researchers Jonathan Storm of the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg and Steven Lima of Indiana State University placed pregnant crickets into enclosures containing a wolf spider. The spiders' fangs were covered with wax so the spiders could stalk the crickets, but couldn't kill them. After the crickets laid their eggs, Storm and Lima then compared the behavior of those offspring to offspring whose mothers hadn't been exposed to spiders. The differences were dramatic.

When placed into a terrarium with a hungry wolf spider, the crickets born of spider-exposed mothers were more likely to seek shelter and stay there. They stayed hidden 113 percent longer -- and as a result had higher survival rates -- than offspring from mothers that hadn't been exposed to spiders. Another experiment showed that the "forewarned" crickets were more likely to freeze when they encountered spider silk or feces -- a behavior that could prevent them from being detected by a nearby spider.

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