Fooled you! Whirling tails of luna moths deflect bat attacks | Science News

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Fooled you! Whirling tails of luna moths deflect bat attacks

Predators often strike at trailing streamers instead of biting the body

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3:00pm, February 16, 2015
Luna moths

BITE THE TAILS  Skinny tails trailing from the hind wings of luna moths, shown here in captivity, can trick attacking bats into unwise target choices.

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Those pretty green tails fluttering and whirling at the end of a luna moth’s hind wings turn out to be pretty good defensive weapons in an acoustic war with predatory bats.

As tips of a moth’s tails whirl in two circles behind the wings, they reflect the echolocation pings that a bat uses to find and nab prey out of the air. That can trick bats into attacking a more expendable body part, or missing the moth altogether. Jesse Barber of Boise State University in Idaho and colleagues report the finding online the week of February 16 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In lab experiments, big brown bats struck at the tails of luna moths (Actias luna) instead of other body parts 55 percent of the time. And when researchers trimmed those tails off the moths, tailless moths were almost nine times as

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