Parasites love caterpillar hairs (but predators don’t)

Really interesting article I found via cool parasite ecology blog (https://parasiteecology.wordpress.com/). Basically, a really neat study where Japanese researchers gave haircuts to caterpillars and then tracked the chances of them being either  preyed upon or  parasitized. Interestingly, caterpillars with longer hairs had a reduced likelihood of being killed by ground beetles. So why don’t all caterpillars have long hairs? It turns out that increased hair length may increase the caterpillars chance of being parasitized as the hairs provide better cover and protection for parasites. Mind blowing – I wonder how general this principle is?

Here are the refs:

Stireman, J.O., and M.S. Singer. 2003. Determinants of parasitoid-host associations: insights from a natural tachinid-lepidopteran community. Ecology 84(2): 296-310.

Sugiura, S., and K. Yamazaki. 2014. Caterpillar hair as a physical barrier against invertebrate predators. Behavioral Ecology 25(4): 975–983.

Anyway, this blog post is the first from my ‘new life’ as a parasite/disease ecologist at the University of Minnesota. Really fun to be applying principles from community/phylogenetic ecology on a new system (big cats and retroviruses).