The following is a guest post by entomologist Guillaume Dury.
In the tropical forests of South America, survival can be tough for a small larva. Ravenous predators are on the prowl and deadly parasites soar nearby. Even faced with these threats, most species simply abandon their offspring, usually eggs. My favourite solution to survival of offspring is maternal care, but this raises the question: “Why do some insects care for their young while most do not?”
Comparatively few people study maternal care in insects and I’d like your help to be one of them. Insects are my passion, below is a photo of me at 4 years old, in the Swiss Alps with my insect net. Since then, I’ve obtained a B.Sc. in biology and ecology and I’ve finished my M.Sc. working on leaf beetles. I’m a BugShot 2012 alumnus and love insect photography, you can find my portfolio and my complete research C.V. on my website: http://www.gjdury.com/
My project is partially funded by a National Geographic Young Explorer’s grant. I’m collaborating with Dr. Windsor of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Dr. Bede of McGill University, we propose a series of observations and experiments to determine how Proseicela vittata Fabricius (Chrysomelidae: Chrysomelinae) mothers defend their offspring, and from what threats, and how it differs from a closely related species without maternal care.
Leaf beetles feed on leaves exposed to predators and parasites, parents of some species guard their progeny. The picture above is a mother Proseicela vittata with her larvae. In P. vittata, the mother beetle protects her eggs by gestating them, then, after giving birth to small larvae, she remains with them for all of their development.
The mother beetle doesn’t feed her larvae, but prepares their first meal. She will cut the veins of the first leaf the larvae eat. The leaves are those of the toxic Solanum morii (Solanaceae), and no one is certain about why the mothers cut the veins, we think it makes the leaves less toxic for the newborn larvae.
If you can share my project and spare a few dollars, it will make a big difference for me and I’ll do my very best to give back the best science I can! I am collecting funds through an Indiegogo campaign: