Carcasses of jumpy insects taint soil
Terrified insects can haunt their homeland after they die. Chemical remnants of fear in the rotting corpses of grasshoppers slow the decomposition of dead grass and other debris important for fertilizing new plant growth, a new study finds.
Spiders that frighten grasshoppers may thus play an unrecognized role in shaping ecosystems, adding a menacing presence that both cows the predators’ prey and suppresses the local vegetation, researchers report in the June 15 Science.
A team working at Yale spooked Melanoplus femurrubrum grasshoppers by raising them in cages with Pisaurina mira spiders. The arachnids’ mouth parts had been glued shut, so they