Science is constantly bringing us new and awesome discoveries, and often with some pretty weird methods. In the latest we’re-sure-this-matters-to-science gambit, scientists scammed birds and other insects all over the world with fake caterpillars. Why? Because we needed answers to how latitudinal trends play into the interactions between species.
Oh. Of course. We totes knew that. OBVIOUSLY.
Basically, we know there is greater biodiversity near the equator. But there was not enough research into whether the bigger number of animals leads to a change in how predators and prey interact. Scientists wondered, if there’s more food around, will birds eat more food? That is where the idea for fake caterpillars emerged. Researches all over the world got little green plasticine caterpillars sent to them by mail.
The idea behind this was to see whether or not caterpillar/predator interactions would decrease or increase in different places. Any type of ant, slug, lizard, bird or beetle that attacked the soft clay would basically be providing data. Their pecks and bite marks would be recorded and then analyzed.
But it turns out the results surprised everyone!
After all of the fake caterpillars were collected, the research showed that there was a correlation between how often the insect was attacked and its location.
According to Popular Science:
In addition to there being more biodiversity near the equator, the chances of being attacked is raised as well. But with one small caveat: the birds were a red herring! While attacks increased, it wasn’t by birds or mammals, but by other bugs! They now think that animals and birds can spread to a wider range when food is scarce, but insects take advantage of food-rich environments.
Still, it really can’t be too long before a blue jay sues someone for emotional distress after encountering a few too many of those fake caterpillars. Birds gotta eat!!