MAR 23, 2016 11:57 AM PDT

A Caterpillar That Protects Itself With a Stack of Old Heads

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Putting a twist on the old saying, ‘two heads are better than one,’ how about multiple heads? New heads, old heads, even heads that can be used to take a swing at your enemy. Or, at least that’s the idea behind a species of caterpillar known as Urba Lugens.
 
Better known as the gum-leaf skeletonizer or the Mad Hatterpillar, this caterpillar uses its unused old heads as an ever-growing appendage that can be used to fend off predators or enemies that try to attack it.
 

This caterpillar protects itself from predators with a stack of old head shells.


An extensive research project was conducted on the species by the University of Sydney’s Petah Low, whose research is documented in PeerJ.
 
Among the examples showing that the stack of heads is used for self-defense, was a recorded instance where the caterpillar used the stack to take a swat at a pentatomid bug and even to use it as a false foe distraction.
 
On the other hand, Low explains that the extra heads are effective against certain predators, but not all, “While providing some level of protection, head capsules may not be equally effective against all predators and are not sufficient to prevent predation by highly motivated predators.”
 
So where does this stack of heads actually come from? – The species will actually shed a layer every time it molts its shell, but as it does so, the part of the shell that would once encapsulate the head remains on the body, and continues to grow with each molt, as National Geographic explains.
 
The real head remains at the bottom of the stack of false heads, and predators often have a difficult time finding the real head as they’re trying to attack the caterpillar.
 
Even if parts of the shell break off during combat, if they’re able to get away, they’ll just continue to grow more to fend off future predators that try to cause harm.

It would seem that the old wive's tail that two heads are better than one, would be right!

Source: National Geographic

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 26, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 26, 2019
These Daring Fish Clean the Insides of Sharks' Mouths
You’d be hard-pressed to find any fish daring enough to voluntarily enter a top predator’s mouth, but that’s precisely what a humble fish...
DEC 10, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 10, 2019
The Real Reason Why Flamingos Are Pink
Flamingos are highly discernable birds best known for their bright pink appearance and long, thin legs. But have you ever wondered why these birds are the...
DEC 13, 2019
Health & Medicine
DEC 13, 2019
Mandatory Warning Labels for California Cannabis Products, Unsafe for Mothers-to-be
As the first state to legalize medical marijuana, California is to date one of the largest cannabis markets in the United States. A nine-member panel of sc...
DEC 17, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 17, 2019
Watch Seals Band Together to Scare a Great White Shark Away
Great white sharks are rather renowned for being massive and merciless predators of the ocean, and among their favorite prey are fur seals, which are rich...
JAN 12, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 12, 2020
Himalayan plant cover is shifting
New research published recently in Global Change Biology details the findings from a study on subnival vegetation in the Himalayan region. The findings sug...
JAN 29, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 29, 2020
New Study Suggests Phytoplankton Will Thrive, not Decline
Based on current Earth models, which project warming seas and nutrient depletion, scientists widely believe that phytoplankton biomass will decline in...
Loading Comments...