Long horns protect Hestina japonica butterfly larvae from their natural enemies

Ikuo Kandori, Mamoru Hiramatsu, Minako Soda, Shinya Nakashima, Shun Funami, Tomoyuki Yokoi, Kazuko Tsuchihara, Daniel R. Papaj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Animals sometimes have prominent projections on or near their heads serving diverse functions such as male combat, mate attraction, digging, capturing prey, sensing or defence against predators. Some butterfly larvae possess a pair of long frontal projections; however, the function of those projections is not well known. Hestina japonica butterfly larvae have a pair of long hard projections on their heads (i.e., horns). Here we hypothesized that they use these horns to protect themselves from natural enemies (i.e., predators and parasitoids). Field surveys revealed that the primary natural enemies of H. japonica larvae were Polistes wasps. Cage experiments revealed that larvae with horns intact and larvae with horns removed and fitted with horns of other individuals succeeded in defending themselves against attacks of Polistes wasps significantly more often than larvae with horns removed. We discuss that the horns counter the paper wasps’ hunting strategy of first biting the larvae’s ‘necks’ and note that horns evolved repeatedly only within the Nymphalidae in a phylogeny of the Lepidoptera. This is the first demonstration that arthropods use head projections for physical defence against predators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2835
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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