Caterpillar mimics snake

Papilionidae caterpillar snake mimic khao yai

In the world of Lepidoptera some species of the Sphingidae family of moths and of the Papilionidae family of butterflies are known for snake mimicry in the later caterpillar instars. Viewed from a head on angle some species look dramatically

like snakes to our eyes and some, such as the Sphingidae Hemeroplanes sp., have even been documented to supposedly mimic snake behaviour as well.

I had never seen one in the forest before, but on a day trip to Khao Yai National Park a week ago I was lucky enough to have my first encounter with a 5th instar Papilionidae caterpillar. This is a big caterpillar of about 70 mm length and at first galnce the mimicry was not apparant but when you get down low and look at it head on .............


Papilionidae caterpillar snake mimic khao yai

Papilionidae caterpillar apparently mimics a snake


Papilionidae caterpillar snake mimic khao yai

From the side the snake mimicry is less apparent

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WT admin replied the topic: #1282 24 Aug 2013 12:53
The trip actually yielded 3 firsts for me, the other two being..........

An unknown planthopper (Fulgoroidea)

and the amazing female Yellow Scorpion-Tailed Spider (Arachnura sp.). Although I cannot claim to have found this tiny spider. It was Old Ed's find and I just sneaked a photo of it. Even though he pointed it out to me I would never have guessed the little blob on the underside of a leaf was in fact a spider. Amazing.

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onflipflops replied the topic: #1292 24 Aug 2013 23:07
As always, great shots.
That's a nice collection of some freaks of nature.
Never seen that spider, that's an amazing looking creature.
I can imagine walking past it and just thinking it's a little yellow orchid flower hangin' in a web... Will have a closer look next time!
How tiny is it?
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WT admin replied the topic: #1295 25 Aug 2013 06:00
Cheers! Its about 8-10 mm long and just looks like a fallen yellow flower from a tree seeding. You can see in the photo 3 strands of silk that it suspended from. They are attached to the underside of leaves and you are 100% correct, just looks like a bit of flower debris - even when its in the viewfinder. Even at 8-10 mm though I was struggling with the Nikon 105 and a D7100 as I had to get really close and DOF was about 3-4 mm.

"Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius." > Edward O. Wilson

"An understanding of the Natural World and whats in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment." > Sir David Attenborough

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