Proctodeal extrusion as a defensive behavioral response in blister beetles (Coleoptera: Meloidae)

Rosas-Ramos, NataliaRodríguez Flores, Paula C.García-París, Mario. The Science of Nature 108 :19 (2021) DIGITAL CSIC

Defensive mechanisms in blister beetles (Coleoptera: Meloidae) include a wide variety of behavioral responses, chemical defense, and conspicuous external colorations. Although some of these mechanisms have been previously described, proctodeal extrusion, a defensive behavior involving the extrusion of inner abdominal membranes from the proctodeal region which appear intensely red or orange colored when the hemolymph is seen through them, has not been reported to date. Here, we tested the ability to display proctodeal extrusion in response to threat stimuli in wild populations of three blister beetle species inhabiting Central Spain: Berberomeloe majalis (Linnaeus, 1758), Berberomeloe comunero Sánchez-Vialas, García-París, Ruiz & Recuero, 2020, and Physomeloe corallifer (Germar, 1818). In addition, we observed and recorded various other defensive behaviors such as immobility, antennal threat display, autohemorrhage (reflex bleeding), defecation, and thanatosis (death feigning). The frequency at which proctodeal extrusion was observed differed among species, as did the stress intensity needed for extrusion and the probability of proctodeal extrusion in response to a particular threatening stimulus. Our findings indicate that, although proctodeal extrusion might be a widespread potential defensive mechanism in Meloidae, the ability to elicit it is not generalized across lineages. Physomeloe and Berberomeloe are endemic to the semiarid Mediterranean region, and species adapted to such a climate would have developed strategies that limit hydric stress such as proctodeal extrusion, which mirrors the effect of autohemorrhage but without the fluid loss.