July 5th, 2009

Another snake mimic

By KENNEDY WARNE

Ron Rutowski, Professor of Biology at Arizona State University and a lepidopterist whose major area of study is how insects produce and use visual signals in their lives, has sent this link about the snake-mimicking spicebush swallowtail caterpillar. He notes: “Although the resemblance and its potential advantage appears obvious it has never been confirmed experimentally.”

Spicebush swallowtail larva looks more like something from Disney than nature.

Spicebush swallowtail larva looks more like something from Disney than nature.

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2 Responses to “Another snake mimic”

  1. Jeremy Warne says:

    So it mimics a snake to put off predators… how big a caterpillar are we talking? I don’t know if I could bring myself to worry about a snake that’s only a centimetre long. Not that I consider myself a particularly fearsome predator.

  2. Maybe predators are hard-wired to avoid large eyes, regardless of the size of the critter sporting them. Perhaps it’s also combined with having bad-tasting flesh, so there’s a “Newsflash: You’re going to regret it if you eat me!” thing happening.