There's A Good Evolutionary Reason For This Insect's Butt-stache

Illustration for article titled Theres A Good Evolutionary Reason For This Insects Butt-stache

What the hell is coming out of that bug? What? It's supposed to be like that? And that's just one example of this insect's weird butt eruptions? Well, you have to tell me more.

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This incredibly odd-looking insect is the planthopper nymph. It's not the only one. In entomology terms, a "nymph" is any insect that's not fully developed to maturity, and a "planthopper" is any member of the order Fulgoromorpha. The order contains about 12,000 species — but the handful that we're going to talk about today share a distinguishing feature. Let's see if you can guess what it is.

Illustration for article titled Theres A Good Evolutionary Reason For This Insects Butt-stache
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These little creatures can squeeze waxy threads out of their abdomen. The threads can take all sorts of forms. Some of the insects look like they have two backwards horns. Some look like they are waving around fans of fiber-optic cables. Some have dandelion-like fuzz. And some just look like those overbred dogs that resemble mops.

Why these elaborate displays? First of all, the complicated waxy threads can throw predators off when they try to take a mouthful of nymph. Secondly, although the planthopper generally moves very slowly, it is not misnamed. These tails allow at least some of the nymphs to glide between plants. Some of the waxy extrusions even look like bits of spider-web, or actual spiders, giving the nymphs a way to deter predators, as well as flee from them. Whatever the reason, the wax looks very, very weird. I mean come on, what is that?

Illustration for article titled Theres A Good Evolutionary Reason For This Insects Butt-stache

Top Image: Geoff Gallice, Second and Third Image: gbohne

[Source: Mother Nature News.]

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DISCUSSION

These guys have the coolest stuff coming out of their butts!

And I am SO happy you enabled me to type that sentence.

Fireworks! (or Fiber Optics??)

Zoooom! (That could almost be 'shopped!)

I...I've got nothing.

And they dance, too! (Those guys might be aphids, but still. . . cool butt fluff!)

I love you, Nature!