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Too-young caterpillars like scent of sex

Larvae respond to mate-attracting pheromones

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6:02pm, September 6, 2012

Caterpillars way too immature for actual sex turn out to detect and take an interest in adult sex pheromones.

Caterpillars of the cotton leafworm moth (Spodoptera littoralis) don’t have working sex organs. They’re just long, black-green larvae eating as much as they can before transforming into the completely different body shape and lifestyle of an adult moth. Yet these caterpillars can sense, and appear to like, the adult sex pheromone of their species, an international team reports September 4 in Nature Communications.

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