Forget the "man bites dog" news stories. Even more daring: Beetle Bites Toad!
Two species of Epomis beetles deserve front-page headlines on the nature front news. The two beetles, E. dejeani and E. circumscriptus, readily dine on toads, frogs and salamanders.
Those same amphibians eat other insects, but Epomis seek vengeance for their fallen invertebrate kin by branching out from their normal diet of insects, worms and carrion to make a meal of a hapless amphibian.
Gil Wizen and Avital Gasith of Tel Aviv University recently observed the table-turning beetles and their interactions with amphibian prey on the coastal plains of Israel.
Like a roommate from a horror movie, the beetle sometimes hangs out with its intended victims during the day in burrows or other shelters. But once the sun goes down, the backstabbing bug kills and eats its amphibian roomies.
The beetles literally stab, or at least bite, their victims in the back. They bite into the amphibian's back and immobilize them. Over the next couple of hours, they devour the amphibians, starting with their delicious legs.
The world is an amphibian smorgasbord to the Epomis beetles. Wizen and Gasith found that the beetles make meals of frogs and toads (Bufo viridis, Hyla savignyi and Rana bedriagae), newts (Triturus vittatus) and salamanders (Salamandra salamandra infraimmaculata).
To test the beetle's amphibian eating ability, the researchers set up an experiment straight out of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. They put the Epomis beetles in a cage with each of the five aforementioned amphibians one by one.
Two species enter … One species leaves.
Epomis dejeani was victorious in every cage match, laying low the much larger amphibians 100 percent of the time. Epomis circumscriptus didn't seem to have a taste for newts. It killed and ate every species but Triturus vittatus.
IMAGE 1: BBQ frogs' legs. (Wikimedia Commons)
IMAGE 2: Frog's legs covered in sesame seeds. (Mallet/photocuisine/Corbis)
IMAGE 3: Predation of amphibians by adult Epomis: A) Bufo viridis juvenile by Epomis circumscriptus. B) Hyla savignyi juvenile by Epomis circumscriptus. C) Bufo viridis juvenile by Epomis circumscriptus. D) Salamandra salamandra infraimmaculata metamorph by Epomis dejeani. E) Hyla savignyi juvenile by Epomis circumscriptus. F) Triturus vittatus metamorph by Epomis dejeani. (Photographs by Gil Wizen)