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Papilionidae caterpillar mimics snake

24 Aug 2013 10:20 - 24 Aug 2013 10:44 #1260 by WT admin
Papilionidae caterpillar mimics snake was created by WT admin

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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24 Aug 2013 12:53 - 24 Aug 2013 15:41 #1282 by WT admin
Replied by WT admin on topic Papilionidae caterpillar mimics snake
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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24 Aug 2013 23:07 #1292 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Papilionidae caterpillar mimics snake
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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25 Aug 2013 06:00 - 25 Aug 2013 06:03 #1295 by WT admin
Replied by WT admin on topic Papilionidae caterpillar mimics snake
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.

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25 Aug 2013 10:46 #1297 by Bagheera
Replied by Bagheera on topic Papilionidae caterpillar mimics snake
That really is quite amazing.
great photos too and a thumbs up for the new watermark B)

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26 Oct 2013 10:48 - 26 Oct 2013 10:50 #1438 by Bo Christensen
Replied by Bo Christensen on topic Papilionidae caterpillar mimics snake
Amazing photos.

I recently found a caterpillar in my garden in Phitsanulok, that also mimics a snake - but a little differently. When threatend it bends its head backwards and a red snake tongue emerges from the caterpillars head. I believe it is a Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar (Papilionidae).

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26 Oct 2013 20:41 - 26 Oct 2013 20:42 #1440 by onflipflops
Replied by onflipflops on topic Papilionidae caterpillar mimics snake
Only recently I found some images of these caterpillars sticking out a snake tongue. I have seen the caterpillars before, but now I know about this I would love to find another one and try to make it show his tongue. Was it easy to make it show its tongue?

I can't get my head around this, how evolution got this far.
That a green caterpillar shows eyes and an enlarged snake-like head, OK, I can imagine this could evolve over time, but where did that tongue come from?

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27 Oct 2013 09:25 #1441 by Bo Christensen
Replied by Bo Christensen on topic Papilionidae caterpillar mimics snake
It only needed a gentle tickle with a straw, to show its "tongue". I usually do that, when I find caterpillars, to make them show their eyespots and enflated head. I didn't expect this reaction.

The organ is called an osmeterium (I had to look it up), and besides looking like a snake tongue it emits odorous compounds.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osmeterium

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