.

  • Written by Heshani Edirisinghe, PhD student, Massey University
Ladybirds are insects with a hard outer shell, just like beetles Shutterstock

Curious Kids is a series for children. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskids@theconversation.edu.au You might also like the podcast Imagine This, a co-production between ABC KIDS listen and The Conversation, based on Curious Kids.


Why don’t ladybirds have tails? – Lotte, aged 2.


Thank you, Lotte, for this great question.

Let’s start by thinking about animals that do have tails and what they have in common.

Dogs, elephants, cats, birds, monkeys, and fish – they all have tails and use them for many different things like balancing, swishing flies away, or hanging onto things. And what do all these animals have in common? A backbone!

That’s because a tail is actually an extension of a backbone. (Humans used to have tails! Our early ancestors did but then we changed over time and now only a little stump of a “tailbone” remains.)

So to answer your question, ladybirds do not have tails because they do not have a backbone.

They have something called an “exoskeleton” instead. I will explain what that word means.

An exoskeleton means an outside skeleton. nino**/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Read more: Curious Kids: If an insect is flying in a car while it is moving, does the insect have to move at the same speed?


Insects have their skeletons on the outside

Exoskeleton means a skeleton that is on the outside. And ladybirds are a type of insect – just like beetles, bees, stick insects, and flies.

An insect’s exoskeleton is a hard outer shell that protects important stuff on the inside of their body (like its stomach, and special tubes that help it breathe).

Ladybirds, like other insects, have their skeletons on the outside of their body. ___steph___/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Parts of the ladybird body

A ladybird’s body is divided into three sections: a head, a thorax, and an abdomen.

The head has eyes, mouthparts, and antennae. Antennae help them sense what’s in front of them and how far away it is.

The thorax is where all the legs and wings are connected to the body. Ladybirds have six legs and two pairs of wings.

The tough pair of outer wings is tough is called the “elytra”. The second pair is hidden underneath and ladybirds stretch these wings out only when they need to fly.

A ladybird in flight. Gilles San Martin/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Bright colour means ‘don’t touch!’

Ladybirds come in red, orange, yellow, blue, brown, and black. Most of them have black dots or patterns on them.

We think that ladybirds use their colours to warn other animals (like birds or spiders) to not to eat them. They’re using their bright colour to send a message that says “Hey! I taste bad, so don’t eat me!”

Their predators recognise what these colours mean and avoid eating them.

Ladybirds are beautiful and smart, aren’t they?

The ladybird’s bright yellow colour warns other animals not to eat them. Graham Wise/flickr

Read more: In red and black, the genetics of ladybug spots


Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to curiouskids@theconversation.edu.au

CC BY-ND

Please tell us your name, age and which city you live in. We won’t be able to answer every question but we will do our best.

Heshani Edirisinghe is a PhD student at Massey University, Auckland and is funded by the Massey University Doctoral Scholarship from 2016.

Authors: Heshani Edirisinghe, PhD student, Massey University

Read more http://theconversation.com/curious-kids-why-dont-ladybirds-have-tails-117749

An 8-year-old made US$22 million on YouTube, but most social media influencers are like unpaid interns

A whopping 12% of the population aged 13 to 38 consider themselves social influencers, according to marketing company Morning Consult. www.shutterstock.comLike any eight-year-old, Ryan Kaji loves to p...

Dr Natalya Saldanha, Academic, RMIT University - avatar Dr Natalya Saldanha, Academic, RMIT University

Domestic violence will spike in the bushfire aftermath, and governments can no longer ignore it

Over the past two weeks, bushfires have raged across New South Wales and Queensland. While the narrative appears focused on potential causes and political point-scoring, what’s lost in this disc...

Rowena Maguire, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Institute for Future Environments, Queensland University of Technology - avatar Rowena Maguire, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Institute for Future Environments, Queensland University of Technology

The main problem with virtual reality? It's almost as humdrum as real life

Virtual horse racing, at a real racecourse? Zero points for imagination. Rachel Grey/AAP ImageJust a few years ago, virtual reality (VR) was being showered with very real money. The industry raised an...

Tomas Trescak, Senior Lecturer in Intelligent Systems, Western Sydney University - avatar Tomas Trescak, Senior Lecturer in Intelligent Systems, Western Sydney University

Children learn through play – it shouldn’t stop at preschool

Over the next few weeks, many preschoolers will meet their foundation teachers, spend some time in a classroom and hopefully make some new friends. from shutterstock.comThe transition from preschool t...

Kate Noble, Education Policy Fellow, Mitchell Institute, Victoria University - avatar Kate Noble, Education Policy Fellow, Mitchell Institute, Victoria University

GOD save us: greenspace-oriented development could make higher density attractive

The lure of suburbia clearly remains strong. To deal with sprawl, planners need to increase urban density in a way that resonates with the leafy green qualities of suburbia that residents value. Juli...

Julian Bolleter, Deputy Director, Australian Urban Design Research Centre, University of Western Australia - avatar Julian Bolleter, Deputy Director, Australian Urban Design Research Centre, University of Western Australia

Re-imagining a museum of our First Nations

The Quandamooka Art, Museum and Performance Institute offers a new way of considering the shape of First Nations museums in Australia. Cox Architecture/QYACIndigenous voices are finally being ackno...

Kieran Wong, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Monash University - avatar Kieran Wong, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Monash University

Making sense of menopausal hormone therapy means understanding the benefits as well as the risks

Grappling with the pros and cons of menopausal hormone therapy can be confusing. From shutterstock.comAt menopause, a woman’s ovaries lose their reproductive function. Eggs are no longer release...

Susan Davis, Chair of Women's Health, Monash University - avatar Susan Davis, Chair of Women's Health, Monash University

What are the best bed sheets

Looking for new bedsheets? With so much choice on the market, finding the best bed sheets can be a challenge – but when you’re between the sheets for so many hours, it’s important to get it ri...

Digital 360 - avatar Digital 360

6 Groovy ‘70s Costume Ideas to Help You Stand Out at Your Next Retro Party

In the early 1970’s Vogue magazine famously proclaimed, “There are no rules in the fashion game now.” Indeed, by following in the footsteps of the ‘60s – defying old traditions and exp...

Digital 360 - avatar Digital 360

Chinese embassy says Liberal critics Hastie and Paterson should “repent”

The Chinese embassy has lashed out at two Liberal members of parliament, Andrew Hastie and James Paterson, saying they would need to “repent and redress their mistakes” before they would b...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the government's response to the bushfires

University of Canberra Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Geoff Crisp discusses the the week in politics the government’s response to the bush fires as well as the Emergency Leaders for Climate Ac...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Conditions built into Frydenberg's okay for Chinese baby formula takeover

Bellamy’s will have to have to manufacture in Victoria and keep its Australian headquarters for ten years. Bellamy’s AustraliaThe proposed acquisition of infant formula producer Bellamy&rs...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Outdoor Lighting Solutions – How to Make the Right Choice?

Whether it’s your patio, your deck, your porch, or your backyard – your outdoor space needs to be illuminated properly if you want your entire property to look good. This is also a way to boos...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

Climate change: why Sweden's central bank dumped Australian bonds

Sweden's central bank ways it will no longer invest in assets from governments with large climate footprints, even if the yields were high. ShutterstockWhat’s happening? Suddenly, at the level...

John Hawkins, Assistant professor, University of Canberra - avatar John Hawkins, Assistant professor, University of Canberra

The Conversation Yearbook 2019: celebrate with us and grab your discounted copy

The Conversation's Deputy Health Editor, Phoebe Roth, and Assistant Editor: Technology, Noor Gillani, agree this is the must-have read of 2019. Wes Mountain/The ConversationA little bit of authority ...

Molly Glassey, Digital Editor, The Conversation - avatar Molly Glassey, Digital Editor, The Conversation

Place your bets: will banning illegal offshore sites really help kick our gambling habit?

While total gambling spending in Australia decreased during 2016-17, sports betting increased by 15.3%, from A$921 million to A$1.062 billion. SHUTTERSTOCKThe Australian Communications and Media Auth...

Charles Livingstone, Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University - avatar Charles Livingstone, Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University

Stop the world, I want to get off! In Exit Strategies, one woman leaves and leaves again

The script for Exit Strategies was developed by performer Mish Grigor during an artist’s residency in the UK, against the backdrop of Brexit. Bryony JacksonTo perform an exit is not as simple as...

Sandra D'urso, Researcher, The Australian Centre, University of Melbourne - avatar Sandra D'urso, Researcher, The Australian Centre, University of Melbourne

Sri Lanka election: will the country see a return to strongman politics?

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the frontrunner in Sri Lanka's presidential election, faces a lawsuit in the US for alleged extrajudicial killing and torture. M.A. Pushpa Kumara/EPASri Lanka’s presidential ...

Niro Kandasamy, Tutor, University of Melbourne - avatar Niro Kandasamy, Tutor, University of Melbourne

Is social media damaging to children and teens? We asked five experts

They need to have it to fit in, but social media is probably doing teens more harm than good. from www.shutterstock.comIf you have kids, chances are you’ve worried about their presence on socia...

Alexandra Hansen, Chief of Staff, The Conversation - avatar Alexandra Hansen, Chief of Staff, The Conversation

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

How to Make Your Girlfriend’s Birthday Extra Special

Your girlfriend’s birthday is your opportunity to show her how much you care. But how exactly do...

A Guide to Building Your Kid’s Confidence

As your child grows, confidence is key. Having low self-esteem as a child can have a detrimental e...

3 Hacks that Will Extend the Life of Your Hair Extensions

Everybody has the right to enjoy beautiful, long hair, including you! If you’ve always heard a...

Lessons in Empathy for Children

The ability to be able to understand and share the feelings of a fellow human being – empathy ...