Caterpillar

The striking caterpillar of the Emperor Gum Moth

A caterpillar is the larval form of a lepidopteran (a member of the insect order comprising butterflies and moths).

Caterpillars have long segmented bodies and many sets of "legs". They eat leaves voraciously, grow rapidly, shed their skins generally four or five times, and eventually pupate into an adult form.

Caterpillars have six true legs (being hexapods) on the thorax, up to four pairs of prolegs on the middle segments of the abdomen, and sometimes a single pair of prolegs on the last abdominal segment. The sawfly larva (Hymenoptera) superficially resembles a caterpillar, but can usually be distinguished because the caterpillar has a gap between true legs and prolegs, whereas the sawfly does not. Another difference is that lepidopteran caterpillars have crochets or hooks on the prolegs. The gap between the prolegs and the true legs can vary from a slight gap in some species to a large gap in families such as the geometridae. The geometrids, also known as inchworms or loopers, are so named because of the way they locomote, appearing to measure the earth (the word 'geometrid' means 'earth-measurer' in Greek).

Caterpillar of the monarch butterfly

Caterpillars do not breathe through their mouths. Air enters their bodies through a series of small tubules along the sides of their thorax and abdomen. These tubules are called 'spiracles', and inside the body they connect together into a network of airtubes or 'tracheae'.

Caterpillars do not have very good eyesight or senses. Rather than having fully-developed eyes they have a series of six tiny eyelets or 'ocelli' on the lower portion of their head. They rely on their antennae to help them locate food.

Many species of birds and animals consider caterpillars to be a tasty protein snack, so the caterpillars have evolved several methods of protecting and/or camouflaging themselves. These methods can be either passive, aggressive, or both. Some caterpillars have large 'false eyes' towards the rear of their abdomen. This is an attempt to convince predators that their back is actually their front, giving them an opportunity to escape to the 'rear' when attacked. Others have a body coloration that closely resembles their food plant.

More aggressive self-defence measures are taken by the spitfires and hairy caterpillars. These caterpillars have spiny bristles or long fine hairs that will irritate anything that brushes against them, or spit acidic digestive juices at potential enemies. However, some birds, like cuckoos, will swallow the hairiest of caterpillars.

Caterpillar

Some caterpillars eat the leaves of plants that are toxic to other animals. They are unaffected by the poison themselves, but it builds up in their system, making them highly toxic to anything that eats one of them. These toxic species, such as the Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) caterpillars, are brightly striped or coloured in red and yellow - the 'danger' colours.

Caterpillars have rightfully been called eating machines. They have the fastest growth rate of any animal in the world. For instance, a tobacco hornworm will increase its own weight ten thousand times in less than twenty days. One of their adaptations that enables them to eat this much is a mechanism in a specialized midgut which transports ions at a very high rate to the lumen (midgut cavity), to keep the potassium level higher in the midgut cavity than in the blood. This mechanism is not found in any vertebrates.

The aim of all these aggressive defense measures is to assure that any predator that eats (or tries to eat) one of them will not be in a hurry to repeat the experience.

Some caterpillars obtain protection by associating themselves with ants. The Lycaenid butterflies are particularly well known. Recent findings have shown that they communicate with their ant protectors by means of vibrations as well as chemical means.

Some caterpillars are considered serious pests of agriculture or forestry. The include the Small White butterfly (brassicas), the Pine Butterfly, and the Codling Moth (apples).

"Tiny, snail-eating caterpillars found in Hawaiian rain forests tie up their prey with sticky silk and snack on them at leisure. [...] It is the first time that caterpillars that eat snails or any other mollusk have been found." July 22, 2005

Other carnivorous species of caterpillars are also known, but still represent a tiny fraction of all known representatives of these insect larvae.

Literature and art

  • Children's stories
    • Hookah-smoking caterpillar: Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland
    • The Very Hungry Caterpillar, 1969, Eric Carle.
  • Popular song
    • Inch worm by Frank Loesser, (from the motion picture Hans Christian Andersen)
  • TV series
    • Arthur in Willo the Wisp
    • The Screamapillar in The Simpsons
  • Music
    • Caterpillar is a song by the live electronica band The Disco Biscuits [1]

Additional photos

For a series of photographs showing caterpillar life-cycle, see Emperor Gum Moth.


This page about Caterpillar includes information from a Wikipedia article.
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They are unaffected by the poison themselves, but it builds up in their system, making them highly toxic to anything that eats one of them. Columbia is a poetic name for the United States and its nineteenth century female personification, which inspired related uses such as the former unofficial U.S. Some caterpillars eat the leaves of plants that are toxic to other animals. Niobium, an element formerly named Columbium. However, some birds, like cuckoos, will swallow the hairiest of caterpillars. The constellation Columba. These caterpillars have spiny bristles or long fine hairs that will irritate anything that brushes against them, or spit acidic digestive juices at potential enemies. Colombia, a country in South America often misspelled as 'Columbia'.

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Caterpillars do not have very good eyesight or senses. USS Columbia, several ships of the US Navy. These tubules are called 'spiracles', and inside the body they connect together into a network of airtubes or 'tracheae'. the Apollo 11 Command/Service Module. Air enters their bodies through a series of small tubules along the sides of their thorax and abdomen. Space shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated during reentry in 2003. Caterpillars do not breathe through their mouths. Columbia, a NASA supercomputer.

The geometrids, also known as inchworms or loopers, are so named because of the way they locomote, appearing to measure the earth (the word 'geometrid' means 'earth-measurer' in Greek). Columbia Nuclear Generating Station in Washington. The gap between the prolegs and the true legs can vary from a slight gap in some species to a large gap in families such as the geometridae. Columbia Theological Seminary. Another difference is that lepidopteran caterpillars have crochets or hooks on the prolegs. any of several Columbia Colleges. The sawfly larva (Hymenoptera) superficially resembles a caterpillar, but can usually be distinguished because the caterpillar has a gap between true legs and prolegs, whereas the sawfly does not. Columbia University.

Caterpillars have six true legs (being hexapods) on the thorax, up to four pairs of prolegs on the middle segments of the abdomen, and sometimes a single pair of prolegs on the last abdominal segment. Columbia University Press, publisher of Columbia Encyclopedia. They eat leaves voraciously, grow rapidly, shed their skins generally four or five times, and eventually pupate into an adult form. Columbia Sportswear. Caterpillars have long segmented bodies and many sets of "legs". Columbia Records. A caterpillar is the larval form of a lepidopteran (a member of the insect order comprising butterflies and moths). Columbia Broadcasting System, which became CBS.

Caterpillar is a song by the live electronica band The Disco Biscuits [1]. Columbia Pictures (also known as Columbia TriStar). Music

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    TV series

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        . Popular song
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          Hookah-smoking caterpillar: Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Columbia Heights, Oregon. Children's stories

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