Stink Bugs Provide Sunscreen for their Eggs

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One scientist found his laboratory stink bugs were laying different colour eggs on the black and white squares of a crossword printed on the newspaper lining of their cage. This small observation led him to begin a series of experiments that show how female stink bugs are able to selectively provide sun protection for vulnerable eggs.

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Images © Andrea Brauner (top) Leslie Abram (bottom)

When it comes to egg laying, it’s location, location, location. But female stink bugs have found a way to protect their eggs by providing sunscreen for those laid in more exposed environments. New research published in Current Biology last week shows for the first time that female stink bugs (Podisus maculiventris) possess the ability to control the colour of their eggs.

Researchers at the University of Montréal found that females lay different colour eggs on different backgrounds, and suggest this ability has evolved to provide protection for eggs laid in harsher environments. Female stink bugs can lay eggs on the top or underside of leaves, and the researchers found that eggs laid on the tops of leaves tended to be darker in colouration. Dark pigmentation in eggs may protect the eggs from UV radiation, much as is does in our skin.

How the females are able to sense the brightness of their environment and alter the colour of their eggs to match remains a mystery, however. Although this is the first time the ability to control egg colouration has been identified in any animal, the authors believe the behaviour might be more widespread in nature.

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Featured image by Leslie Abram.

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