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Experimental Studies of Tenebrionid Beetle Predation By Skunks

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A series of experiments showed that naive skunks are not deterred by the defensive secretions of tenebrionid beetles. Before eating beetles with defensive secretions, the naive skunks rolled the beetles in the substrate, during which time the beetles discharged their secretions. When the supply of secretions was presumably exhausted, the skunks ate the beetles. The naive skunks appeared to require an odor cue to recognize a beetle. Once the skunks had recognized the beetle by odor, they used visual cues in choosing the largest beetle regardless of whether or not it had defensive secretions. Similarly, the skunks chose beetles with secretions in preference to crickets, as long as the beetles were larger than the crickets. When given a choice between beetles with secretions and crickets of an equal size, the skunks showed no significant preference.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, U.S.A.

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