Do you know these bright colored, beautiful creatures - caterpillars which turn into butterflies are sometimes dangerous too?
While some find caterpillar (young butterflies) cute and adorable, some find them little creepy. You must have seen these slimy pests and slow creatures crawling on the leaves. Most of us are only aware that these caterpillars turn into a butterfly. But very few know how bizarre and fascinating the caterpillar world is. Want to know how many muscles do they have? How many eyes do they have? How do they move? If you don't, then read on here to know.
So, let’s dive into some interesting yet strange facts about caterpillars that you may not have heard about.
You can clearly say that caterpillar has only one job .i.e to eat. Without proper nutrition, a caterpillar cannot complete its metamorphosis. Not only nutrition, but proper nutrition is required to produce eggs. Caterpillars are even sometimes referred to as 'eating machines' all they do is Eating... Eating... and Eating!
We humans have just 640-840 muscles in our body, caterpillars head only consists 250 muscles. These muscles help a caterpillar in moving. An adult grasshopper consists nearly 900 muscles while a butterfly consists of 4000 muscles.
Caterpillars move by compressing muscles in a continuous motion. They move back and forth by two body system i.e. guts and body wall container. The blood pressure of the caterpillar changes as it moves forward.
Caterpillars are herbivores as they eat only leaves, fruits and plants. The lesser known caterpillar facts are not all of them feed on fruits, some caterpillars feed insect's eggs too. And to protect themselves from predators, many of them release toxins within their bodies.
On each side of caterpillar's head you can see, small eyelets which are called as stemmata that are arranged semi circular in shape. But, if you are thinking that caterpillars have 12 eyes means they have excellent eyesight, then you are absolutely wrong. The stemmata only helps them in distinguishing between dark and low tones of light.
Within a few weeks, the caterpillar shows tremendous growth. Its cuticle or skin is so flexible that it molts several times while gaining the size and mass. They increase their body size by 1000 times or even more. Instar is a stage that occurs between molts and it goes through 5-6 instars before developing into pupa.
Monarch caterpillar and its host plant milkweed is the perfect example to illustrate this. The monarch caterpillar takes in the glycosides that the milkweed plant produces. So the toxins of the monarch caterpillar stay inside it throughout adulthood and that makes the butterfly unpleasant to birds and other potential predators.
You must have seen more than six legs on caterpillars. You are far way right, but those extra legs are false legs (prolegs) which only helps them in holding the plant surfaces allowing them to climb. But the three pair of prolegs is their true legs that it retains till adulthood. (1.1)
Caterpillars feel and sense any touch quickly. An antenna and the tiny hairs present on their body helps them in sensing.
With the salivary glands (present along their mouth sides), caterpillars produce silk. Caterpillars such as gypsy moths scatter away by “ballooning” from treetops on a silken thread. Webworms or eastern tent caterpillars create silk tents where they live altogether. They also use silk while pupating, to create a cocoon or suspend a chrysalis.
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