Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Monster from the Woodlot

This remarkable little fellow crawled out of our woods to find a sheltered place to pupate, and I brought it inside to pose. We identified it as the larvae of the Spicebush Swallowtail, a species known for its mimickry. As an adult, the butterfly benefits from its evolved (we can presume) similarity to a nasty-tasting species. The larvae starts out looking very much like a fresh bird dropping and therefore unappetizing to would-be predators. In its final form, the worm uses a completely different strategy, emerging with huge fake eyes and mouth to resemble (if vaguely, and on a small scale) a predatory snake. The eyes even have white highlights to suggest that they're round and glistening. After the photo session, I released the worm in the vicinity of a spicebush thicket and wished it a productive pupation.

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