Saturday, May 17, 2008

Better Know An Insect: Mad Hatterpillar

Some insects have evolved really wild ways of defending themselves. Some butterflies have eyespots that they flash to startle birds; bombardier beetles can spray boiling acid at any would-be attackers. (I should probably devote a whole post just to them.)

But the caterpillar of the gum leaf skeletonizer, a species of destructive moth, has an unusual defensive mechanism that has earned it the nickname "mad hatterpillar" -- every time it molts, it retains the exoskeleton of its head capsule on top of its head. By the time it reaches the last instar, it looks like something out of Wonderland indeed:

The extra head capsules probably don't offer much physical protection, but if a bird bit off a capsule or two it might give the caterpillar just enough time to escape. Wild, pretty, and pretty wild!


Anonymous said...

ha! I have been looking for that pic on google ever since mike showed it to us in lecture! did you find it on google or is this directly from his slide show?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Where can u find these?!?!