Forgotten Photo Friday – a cryptic caterpillar
February 3, 2012
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I still have no idea how I spotted this among all the lush, green September foliage blanketing the edges of a forest path:
I suspect my eye was drawn to the bits of missing leaf that indicated insect damage (usually a good place to look for bugs). This critter was chewing its way up the midrib of the leaf, being careful to align its body perfectly with the smaller veins, disguising its body as just another part of (albeit damaged) plant. This is a wonderful example of cryptic camouflage: the animal uses its colour, shape and behaviour to blend in with its environment, thereby escaping the sharp eyes of its predators.
The view underneath was pretty interesting, too. It revealed that the animal was actually holding TWO leaves in place, managing somehow to line them up nicely enough to fool the eye into seeing a single unit of greenery when viewed from above:
Edited to add: Ok, ok. Dave called me out on my “ID” of this animal (or perhaps lack thereof). This is in fact the larva of a sawfly, which is a type of wasp – the biggest hint as to its identity is the number of prolegs (also, the head capsule is pretty typical of sawflies). However, “Cryptic Sawfly Larva” does not nearly have the same alliterative resonance as “Cryptic caterpillar”, so I took creative liberties. So there.