External Digestion

Image #210818

It sounds like something from the plot of a horror movie but the Zebra Longwing butterfly engages in external digestion of pollen that allows it access to many nutrients that lead to its long life compared with other butterflies. In the image above, the large yellow mass caked onto the proboscis is pollen being broken down, externally digested, by enzymes released by the butterfly. Once complete the Zebra Longwing will ingest the externally digested pollen. In the meantime, the butterfly still uses its proboscis to feed on flower nectar, in this case from firebush flowers.

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