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Heat sensors guide insects to a hot meal

Bugs home in on seeds by detecting infrared

Every day is Christmas for a seed-eating bug with a fondness for pine cones. The insects home in on their dinner thanks to special infrared receptors that detect heat emitted by the conifer cones, scientists are reporting online October 21 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Infrared detection has been reported in some insects, such as Melanophila beetles that seek out forest fires because their young can only develop in freshly burnt wood. But this report is the first of seed predators specializing in detecting heat emitted by their host plant, says behavioral ecologist Stephen Takács, who led the new study.

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