Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A change of costume for a change of scene

When seen from below, small Alope sphinx (Erinnyis alope) caterpillars closely resemble the veins of the papaya leaves upon which they feed.  This resemblance does not seem to be just a coincidence, as every time I checked on them, the caterpillars were sitting either directly on top of a leaf vein or on one of the stems.

A young Alope sphinx (Erinnyis alope) caterpillar camouflaged against a papaya leaf vein.
As the caterpillars ate more and more of the leaves, however, they became considerably larger than the leaf veins and even the leaf stems.  While photographing one of these large caterpillars, I found that it had another trick up its sleeve: an eyespot that it could reveal when threatened.

An Alope sphinx (Erinnyis alope) caterpillar showing its eyespot.
Once these caterpillars finish feeding, they descend to the leaf litter to pupate.  Their bright green color would stand out against the brown of twigs and decaying leaves, but that turns out not to be a problem for these caterpillars either.  The one that I found right below the papaya had adopted a new camouflage more suited to its new environment.

The Alope sphinx (Erinnyis alope) caterpillar that I found in the leaf litter below the papaya.
Another view of the dark form of the Alope sphinx (Erinnyis alope) caterpillar.
Explore some more: Caterpillar eyespots

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