Arsenic-munching caterpillars may ingest poison to prevent being eaten

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    Arsenic-munching caterpillars may ingest poison to prevent being eaten
    A fern moth caterpillar

    Fern moth caterpillars have a taste for arsenic

    Bill Keim

    By Jake Buehler

    Arsenic is toxic to most multicellular life. But caterpillars of one species happily dine on arsenic-loaded leaves, even as their bodies accrue astonishing levels.

    Benjamin Jaffe at the University of Wisconsin-Madison first got an inkling of the caterpillars’ unflappable appetite while studying their food – a fern called ladder brake that can accumulate high concentrations of arsenic from the soil.

    While studying the plants in Florida, he unexpectedly found caterpillars devouring the ferns. He chemically analyzed these fern moth caterpillars (Callopistria floridensis), revealing they had accumulated levels …

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