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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Oct 1;93(20):10848-51.

Millipede defense: use of detachable bristles to entangle ants.

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Section of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


The millipede Polyxenus fasciculatus (Diplopoda; Polyxenida) defends itself against ants by use of a pair of bristle tufts at its rear. When attacked, it wipes the tufts against the ants, thereby causing these to become encumbered by bristles that detach from the tufts. Ants contaminated with bristles desist from their assault. The bristles have grappling hooks at the tip by which they lock onto setae of the ants and barbs along their length by which they interlink. In attempting to rid themselves of bristles, ants may succeed only in further entangling themselves by causing the bristles to become enmeshed. Ants heavily contaminated may remain entangled and die. Most millipedes have chemical defenses; polyxenids, instead, have a mechanical weapon.

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