Animals & Wildlife Magazine

Roles Reveresed as the Hunter Becomes the Hunted

By Frontiergap @FrontierGap

Roles reveresed as the hunter becomes the hunted

Some of the more obvious and even famous examples of predator and prey relationships include the lion and wildebeest in Africa, the bear and salmon in Canada and of course the farmers arch enemy; the rabbit that eats the lettuce. However, there is one particularly unprecedented predator-prey relationship that has caught the attention of researchers at the Department of Zoology at Tel-Aviv University in Israel.

In a study published in the online journal PLoS ONE, hungry larvae of two recently discovered beetles of the genus Epomis have been found to have reversed their predator-prey relationship with amphibians, thus becoming the predator themselves. Usually it is amphibians that catch unsuspecting bugs for a tasty snack, but it appears that this particular type of larvae has evolved to take advantage of their would-be predators with an almost 100 per cent success rate.
Laboratory research has shown that the larvae combine a sit-and-wait strategy while enticing the amphibians with a ‘dance’ of their mouths and antennae. The study shows that when the amphibian ‘goes in for the kill’ of what it expects to be a relatively easy meal, the larva dodges the predator's tongue and uses its unique double-hooked mouthparts to attach itself to the amphibian's body. From the safety of its host, the larvae will feed on the defenceless and duped amphibian, ultimately resulting in death.
“Normally amphibians eat small larvae, so the larvae seem to be taking their revenge here,” said entomologist and leader of the study, Gil Wizen.
According to the report about 10 per cent of predator-prey relationships in the animal kingdom result in a smaller animal eating a bigger one, but they are all active attacks — not a small creature luring its prey and outwitting them in a magnificent feat of evolution.
These novel findings extend the perspective of co-evolution between predator and prey and suggest that this counterattack, defense behavior has evolved into predator-prey role reversal; the hunter has become the hunted.
Is this just a unique and one-off accident of nature or is it an extremely rare glimpse of what is to come in the next steps of evolution? Will it be the wildebeest that turns on the lion in a glorious battle of revenge, or a school of salmon taking on a bear in a Canadian waterfall?
Who knows what will become of the notorious relationship between the rabbit and the lettuce.
By Nicki Hollamby


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