photos by samuel jaffe showcasing the diversity of massachusetts’ caterpillars. notes samuel, “my goal is to share all the secrets i have gathered about our local environments and about the value of our backyard ecosystems. i hope to show people that we do not need to look to far away places to find the beauty of nature. nature is all around us, under our feet, and in our daily lives.”
A study recently published in the journal American Naturalist details how the cinereous mourner (Laniocera hypopyrra) is covered with bright orange and speckled down-feathers when it is first born. Not only does this soft plumage make the newborn birds looks like one of two large and hairy toxic caterpillars (Megalopyge or Podalia), but the birds will even wriggle like massive bugs for the first 18 days of their life.
The drab grey bird you sea study recently published in the journal American Naturalist, which details how the cinereous mourner (Laniocera hypopyrra) is covered with bright orange and speckled down-feathers when it is first born.e above is capable to tricking predators into thinking that it is a massive a vibrantly colored toxic caterpillar with little effort. (Photo : Wiki CC0 - Hector Bottai)
A cinereous mourner nestling compared to a toxic caterpillar. (Photo : above, Santiago David Rivera; below, Wendy Valencia)
If any of you are ophidiophobic the Department of Awesome Camouflage would like to offer reassurance that, no matter what your eyes or adrenal cortex are trying to tell you, the animals in these photo are NOT snakes. They’re a wily species of caterpillar that wards off predators by expanding and turning the end of its body, which bears the unmistakable markings of a snake’s head on the underside. If approached, they’ll even go so far as to strike like a real snake. These strikes are completely harmless, but they look so convincing that we’re pretty sure we’d flinch all the same.
This fascinating photo was taken by Daniel Janzen, a biology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, in the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste in northwestern Costa Rica. He’s working there cataloguing caterpillars and says this specimen is a member of the genus Hemeroplanes.
So, apparently, caterpillars will often form into a connected single file line called a “caterpillar train” in order to trick birds into thinking that they're a snake, and therefore, not something they can eat.
Plate showing The Black Mountain Moth, The Frosted Yellow, The Netted Mountain Moth, The Common Heath, The V Moth, The Bordered White, The Grey Scalloped Bar, The March Moth, The Spring Usher, The Mottled Umber, and caterpillars. Taken from ‘The Genera of British Moths’ by H. Noel Humphreys. Published 1860 by Paul Jerrard & Sons.