Friday, 27 January 2017

Bizarre Caterpillar That Makes Own Leafy 'Armor' Seen for 1st Time

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | January 21, 2017 08:10am ET

A caterpillar that was recently discovered in Peru exhibits a behavior previously unknown in caterpillars. It pieces together a tube of leaves and crawls inside; then, it "walks" by grabbing bits of the forest undergrowth with its mouth and pulling itself and its leafy covering forward.

This never-before-seen activity was spotted and documented by Joe Hanson, creator and host of the YouTube science channel "It's OK to Be Smart" presented by PBS Digital Studios, while filming in the Peruvian Amazon with entomologist Aaron Pomerantz and guide Pedro Lima.

When Hanson picked up the caterpillar, it retreated inside the protective tube, "like a knight inside a suit of armor," Hanson said in a video, suggesting that it was using the tube as a type of camouflage and protection against predators. [In Photos: Bizarre Animals That Masquerade as Plants]

Caterpillars are known to employ a range of unusual strategies to protect themselves. Some use a "freeze-and-drop" defense against wasps, deliberately falling off leaves when wasps fly near, to avoid being eaten or parasitized. Others curl up so they resemble tiny piles of bird poop. Certain caterpillars are even known to protect themselves with defensive barfing, regurgitating a foul-smelling liquid that stops predators in their tracks, while others warn away threats with puffs of nicotine.

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