Beetle grows a fake termite on its back to trick real termites to get free meals

A newly discovered beetle has a remarkable ruse to fool termites into feeding it. It grows a "puppet termite" on its back. "The replica is so precise, it even mirrors the termites' distinct body segments and has three pairs of pseudoappendages that resemble antennae and legs," reports Science. "The beetle's real, much smaller head peeks out from beneath its termite disguise."

The beetle has been christened Austrospirachtha carrijoi and is a species of rove beetles, a family of insects that are masters of mimicry. "Some, for example, have evolved to look like army ants, allowing the beetles to march alongside them and feed on their eggs and young," reports Science.

From Science:

Because A. carrijoi's mouth parts are tiny, the authors think it begs food from its hosts rather than eating eggs or larvae. Worker termites feed other castes digested food in a process called trophallaxis. This adaptation has obvious advantages to the beetle. Once it is inside the nest, it can relax and spend the rest of its life living off of termite room service.