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Primitive insect, sophisticated alarm?

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Western Flower Thrip/Frank Peairs, Colorado State U , CCA

From ScienceDaily:

Researchers discover sophisticated alarm signaling in a primitive insect

Many insect species respond to danger by producing chemical alarm signals, or alarm pheromones, to inform others. In a recent study, investigators found that their alarm may be even be context dependent.

The researchers discovered that larvae of the Western Flower Thrips produce an alarm pheromone whose composition of 2 chemicals, decyl acetate and dodecyl acetate, varies with the level of danger they face. When pheromone is excreted with a predator present but not attacking, the percentage of dodecyl acetate increases, whereas when a predator does attack, the percentage of dodecyl acetate is low.

“This type of communication was so far only known from vocal alarm calling in mammals, and people thought insect pheromones have fixed composition,” said Dr. Martijn Egas, co-author of the Journal of Evolutionary Biology study. More.

Paper. (public access)

Note: What exactly does “primitive” mean? A “primitive” insect is highly specialized (2012). A “primitive” rhino adapted well to the ice age. Alo, remember those primitive people who had no words for numbers? Human hand more primitive than chimps …

It all sounds like the fancy dance around speciation: “Speciation” means what exactly? No one can define it but it is the basis of Darwinian evolution.

Continued use of ambiguous  terminology is one way that establishments, in science as elsewhere, preserve an unearned position they do not need to defend.

File under: Create a new category: “More sophisticated than thought” Follows “Earlier than thought”

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