A monkey slug caterpillar (either a Phobetron pithecium or hipparchia) rambles across sticks and leaves in the Amazon Rainforest of Puyo, Ecuador by nature photographer David Weiller. It is not related to a monkey, nor a slug. To many, including local predators that might want to eat it, it doesn’t even appear to be a caterpillar. Is it a hairy tarantula spider?
No. But this mimicry, complete with eight larger appendages that look like spider legs, will help it survive in the rainforest until it transforms into a hag moth. Sam Jaffe of The Caterpillar Lab writes:
These strange beasts must surely be one of the most outlandish of all New England caterpillars. Finding one crawling down a driveway in Maine as a child I was stumped. What was this thing in front of me? Plant? Animal? Fungus? Slug caterpillars are weird to begin with, but with its twisted, hairy, balloon tentacles and stop and go crawl, Phobetron are in a class of their own.
Believe it or not, most people don’t know that the surprising slug caterpillars of the family Limacodidae even exist, and that they are backyard caterpillars the world around!
Mimicry describes similarities between species, often providing an advantage to the more defenseless of the two. Camouflage is when an animal can resemble their surroundings so as to not attract attention. Related reading: Batesian mimicry.
Watch these related caterpillar and mimicry videos next:
• The Lappet Moth Caterpillar
• The Jewel Caterpillar (Minacraga argentata) of Ecuador
• Nature’s Masters Of Disguise