Ryouto Yoshioka
2010winners self-actualization
Overturning the accepted wisdom on doodlebugs through summer-vacation observations and experiments
Ryouto Yoshioka

born: 2001
Sodegaura, Chiba Prefecture

Award summary

Fourth-grader Ryoto chose doodlebugs as the topic for his independent research project for the 2010 summer vacation. A fan of insects since a small child, he became interested in doodlebugs after seeing large numbers of doodlebug hills for the first time on a family trip to the Philippines during the summer of the second grade. Doodlebugs are ant lion larvae; during the larval stage, their anuses are almost completely shut. According to the Japan Insect Association, the commonly accepted theory holds that they produce no excrement until emerging from the larval stage.

Collecting doodlebugs from beneath a nearby shrub thicket, Ryoto observed them continuously for about one month, watching to see if they ate prey other than ants and how they built their hills, among other aspects. He made his discovery when he placed a doodlebug atop a sheet of white paper to take its photograph, noticing that it secreted a yellow liquid. Thinking this might be urine, he looked up the topic in field guides and scholarly volumes at the library and asked questions on websites of the Japan Insect Association and other authorities. Unable to get a satisfactory answer, he checked his findings by placing 10 more doodlebugs on sheets of white paper and observing them, confirming yellow stains after several hours on the sheets on which he had placed four of the bugs.

Later, his report on his research was chosen by the Japan Insect Association for its grand prize for summer vacation insect research. A note-"the commonly held view may have been overturned by the discovery of an elementary-school student"-has been added to the Wikipedia entry on the subject in Japanese.

Reasons for this award

It's remarkable how, based on the healthy spirit of inquiry and diligent observations and experiments without advanced technologies, Ryoto has made a discovery that overturns currently accepted views. While the subject of the ecology of doodlebugs is itself fascinating, that he examined the subject free of the constraints of common wisdom-that doodlebugs produce no excrement-is a notable achievement, one that gives one a glimmer of hope for a future of coexistence between human beings and other living creatures.

Comments from the winner

I love animals. I keep various pets. I especially like doodlebugs, who have their own unique way of life. Studying the ecology of doodlebugs has taught me many unexpected things. My research was very exciting.

I was shocked to see their urine. I'm incredibly happy to have won the grand prize for insect research and the prize from Citizen. Thank you very much!

In the future, I plan to do my best to keep studying living creatures. I want to be a biologist when I grow up.